The news got personal today when I read about a local business leader‘s suicide at age 59, because he was someone I knew. While I would not say Bill was more than an acquaintance (he probably would not have remembered meeting me), he was someone who sent me mass emails, sponsored community events I volunteered for, and hosted networking socials I attended. I feel sad and surprised by his early demise.
We cannot judge another’s life…
In reading the news story, I did not realize how unkind the local press had been to Bill of late, despite his efforts to better our community through a variety of profit and not-for profit endeavors. One such project that brought him particular disdain (according to the story) offered hope to the homeless with an innovative newspaper project. In reading this, I wondered to what extent the publicity contributed to his death. Moreover, I pondered the cruelty that our society (and as a part of it, we) bestows on our own members. We so often read the papers without a second thought about the effects on those involved. We seldom consider that the people in the news are people who hurt, bleed, and feel just the same as you and I.
We distance ourselves from those we read about (victims, criminals, politicians, and others in the news) by differentiation. We say “we are nothing like them, therefore it won’t/can’t/will never happen to us!” Consider our callousness towards politicians or millionaires or foreigners – it is easy to read about their missteps and walk away, because we are nothing like them.
Our popular press sensationalizes every story to exhaustion – so much so that the truth is secondary to the number of papers that sell. TMZ (a scandal-seeking daily show) ridicules celebrities – and to our discredit, we comfortably scoff with them.
We seldom stop to consider others…
If we stopped to think, even for a minute, that the people in the news are just like you and I – imperfect human beings trying to live a good life based on principles (which may not be the same as yours or mine) – we would stop the madness and the presses. We might even be kinder as a nation on those who step out of the fold to lead us.
I don’t know about you, but I see (and often feel) an increased world “intolerance” today, and this bothers me. (As an aside, one of the most amusing post-it notepads I ever saw featured an old woman saying “there is nothing I hate more than intolerance.”) We seem to feign acceptance of all races and creeds of people – as long as they are JUST LIKE US.
Kindness and acceptance of others could certainly make a difference to our neighbors and strangers who do good, and who more often than not are criticized for their efforts. We get so busy at being busy that we neglect to notice (and celebrate) those who are altruistic, who give without expectations, who give of their time or money, and who appear strong in the public eye. Like Bill, there are those among us who feel alone and maybe even despondent.
In a related theme, I have posted how bullying causes pain on several occasions – and lately about the documentary “Bully” making the rounds in theaters nationwide. (See Sticks and Stones are Secondary.)
Lady Gaga, Oprah, Harvard University, and a cast of celebrities and leaders have also stepped up their support to end bullying and make schools more accepting. A new campaign called “It Gets Better” has the support of our President and motivates students to keep going in the face of adversity. Why not look at how our own seemingly innocent behaviors and attitudes affects those around us?
Supporting each other goes so much further than tearing each other down… pass it on!
Better off dead… NEVER!
I do not know what Bill’s life was like outside of the public arena. He obviously had a struggle with demons that convinced him that he was better off dead than alive. He probably did not realize how many people respected him (like me) and valued his contributions. Somehow, the negatives overwhelmed the positives, and now it is too late to tip the scales to the plus side.
While we cannot save Bill, how about others? Why not share a kind word of support instead of a critical barb today? You never know, you might bring a ray of sunshine that makes the difference to someone you may not even know!
Thank you for reading… I appreciate you!