After a weekend that was arguably the most tragic in the history of Johnston, you have to ask yourself: What have we learned? Can anything good come from the untimely, senseless deaths of two well-loved 15-year-old boys?
And the answer would have to be: It can. It already has.
One could argue that the goodwill will be short-lived; that after the most acute pain of the two teen suicides passes, we'll all go back to our tunnel-vision lives. And to some degree, I'm sure that's true. But I can't help thinking about the questions the kids are asking, and the fact that they'll likely lead to some long-term concern for the people who sit next to them in class or on the bus or on the bench in the baseball dugout.
Thanks to the events of this weekend, kids are talking about depression, perhaps for the first time. They're asking how someone can behave as if nothing is wrong while suffering on the inside. They're asking how they can tell if someone needs help, and what to do about the times they themselves need to talk to someone but don't feel comfortable.
They're talking about looking out for one another, about taking it seriously when someone says, "I'm having a really hard time." They're talking about making sure they move over to make room for the kids who eat alone in the lunchroom, and about realizing that teachers have feelings, too; that principals' tears are as real as everyone else's, and that sometimes, even grown-ups need a hug.
A John Mellencamp song from the '80s laments the fact that a man often "can't tell his best buddy that he loves him." Perhaps the most heartening change to come out of this ghastly weekend is that young men who previously might have expressed affection by punching someone in the arm are writing in droves on Facebook walls: "I love you, man. I don't know what I'd do without you." Perhaps boys who can say "I love you" will become men who can say it easily, too.
Tonight in Johnston, there are two sets of parents who don't deserve for their children to have been the catalysts to create change. They don't need us to tell them how wonderful their children were, and how they impacted so many lives, so many households -- they already know.
But they do need to hear that thanks to those two boys, there's a very real chance that a few other lives just may be saved down the road. That can't possibly make any of this better for them right now. But perhaps someday, it may bring them some comfort. That's the very least we all can offer them ... for all they've unknowingly, unwittingly given to us.