Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can good come from this? It already has.

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.

Consider this:

  • A line the length of a gymnasium comprised of middle-school students waiting to hug their principal
  • A mother who says of her 14-year-old daughter: "I thought I was going to have to home-school her because she had had so much trouble adjusting, wasn't making friends, and didn't want to get up in the morning. Sunday, some girls she didn't even think knew her name invited her to a movie, and Monday, they made sure she had a ride to the basketball game."
  • Facebook posts such as this, from a 14-year-old boy: "We can only go up from here. Johnston, we will beat this. Love every one of you. Call/text if you need anything at all."
  • Another post from a 15-year-old boy to a friend who was having trouble coping with the tragedies: "All of Johnston loves you. The pain will go away but it takes time and talking. I am here for you and so is (another friend). Please call us, buddy."
  • And this post, from the mother of a sophomore: "I've been reaching out to the kids -- but I need to be reaching out to other parents, too. I'm here if you need me, Johnston parents!"

  • 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.

    1 comment:

    1. So sad. This really breaks my heart. I knew Mr. Carico personally from his days at Hoover. Can't imagine the grief these two families are going through. But I'm glad to hear that the students and the staff are rallying around the families and offering their support to them and each other.