I arrived at home last night after spending the evening with two sister friends deep in thought. I thought over the evening. I thought about the topics of conversation, how we weaved our way through deep concerns and important viewpoints to practical tips and advice all the way through to favorite celebrities and weird dreams. We shared moments of rallying support as well as raucous laughter. There were as many moments spent in the deep end of the conversational pool as there were floating around in the shallows. For me the evening defined the importance of community and the blessing of friendship. While I needed to hear and be heard I also needed the relief that comes with a bit of silliness. I needed to understand as much as I desired to be understood. It was reciprocal and in that it was as basely beautiful as it gets.
Steve knows someone who though seemingly deeply woven into the thread of community, despaired enough of his own life last week to end it with the shattering finality of suicide. I was left wondering, how did the the community not see, not pick up on the cues? That thought has been haunting me ever since. Steve had supper with this person the night he passed away and has gone over and over that time again if he missed something, some small sign that would have told him to reach out. Of course that is not a burden that can be placed on Steve or any other person's doorstep. Of course had any of his community known they would have taken measures to stop him. But then the question becomes, how would we know?
As we sat around the table last night, my "girlies" and me I wondered almost aloud, "Would I know if you were desperate tonight? I am your community. I am in the tightest of rings inside your community. Short of being your family I'm the friend who knows and loves you best. Yet I find myself unsure... wondering if I would know." I wonder because I realize how good I am at putting on the act, at wearing the mask. At pretending life is great when it's not. I've never despaired of my own life. I don't struggle with the ache of depression. Yet I know how easy it is to pretend for the masses; how important it can feel to present an "all is well" exterior. I would like to think my friends and family (my community) and I would never pretend for eachtoher but then I realize that there are times I pretend just for myself. Sometimes I think we pretend as a means of convincing ourselves.
In the end I know that we cannot blame community for the kind of instability and desperation that leads one to the point of taking his own life. But I am still left wondering, do we really take the time to know eachother well enough to feel what lies beneath the verbage of conversation? Do we listen with a desire to understand? I'm afraid too often I am guilty of hearing the words without listening to their meaning. And do I speak with transparency? Do I allow community into my suffering and recieve the balm of their compassion as they offer it? After all isn't all of this what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ?
Last night I didn't need to pretend. Last night, as most nights I felt happy and life was lighthearted. And,last night I listened with intent. I'd like to think that Steve's friend's death will remind me always to listen with an ear for understanding and speak with lips of compassion. I'd like to think it will keep me honest about how things are going in my life. I don't know what was going on for TK in his life. And now his community will never have the chance to know.
As far as it depends on me, I don't want to miss any more chances.