I want to be the kind of pastor and friend who says this. I want to be the kind of neighbor and daughter and wife and colleague whom people know means it when she says it.
Someone said that phrase to me today in a training on suicide prevention, and she meant it.
“Everything else can wait. Put a pin in it. It’ll still be there,” she said.
Right now, we need to put a pin in it.
Whatever we are doing, it will still be there.
Seventeen people died in Parkland, Florida, yesterday, and, today at least, there is nothing more important than this.
I attended a suicide prevention training today. And I know suicide is different from homicide (suicide actually kills more people than homicide does), but the two have some common contributing factors: illness, isolation and access.
Oregon has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country. Nationally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people (ages 25-34) and the third-leading cause of death for adolescents (ages 10-24). I am choked up just writing that.
And today at the training, I choked up listening to good people describe how so many of their [clients, students, patients, family members, children] couldn’t access mental health care because of long waiting lists. Illness.
I choked up listening to good, good people describe how so many folks, folks who haven’t yet reached experienced suicidal thoughts, simply need someone to talk to. Someone to listen. Isolation.
But I got angry at this statistic: Gun owners and their families suffer from suicide at a rate three times higher than those who don’t own guns. They are not sicker or more isolated. They have better access to lethal weapons. While we can debate whether guns cause suicides and homicides, we cannot debate that guns offer access. Guns are means to an end, and they are highly effective. There is little room for ambivalence or doubt with a gun. Access.
So I’m putting a pin in it. Rage can be productive, but it has its limits. I am in serious brainstorming mode about what moral people–spiritual people–of any background and persuasion can prioritize right now so that we can prevent more loss of life–more days of frustration and sorrow. Faithful response to the deaths of our fellow beloveds is necessary, political and spiritual.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Let your heart be broken by this. Every time. School and other mass shootings are now commonplace in the United States. That is not okay. We each carry the Holy within us; the Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God created humans in God’s very image. When we feel our hearts wanting to break, let’s let them. Then let’s use our sorrow as righteous fuel for what comes next.
Be in community. Listen to your neighbors. Create webs of belonging. Talk with other people about how to do that. We need one another when something hard happens: divorce, job loss, poverty & other forms of oppression, death. A national tragedy like a school shooting. I often take for granted that I have lots of people with whom to vent my shit. Not everyone has that. Put a pin in whatever you are doing. Tell someone that you have all the time in the world for them. This is how we can create resilient communities.
Get political about this. Not divisive. Not righteous. Speak truth to bullshit. Be public about the ways you are called to live into your [moral, spiritual, religious, parental, medical, etc.] identity. Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. So be that. Find out your congressional representatives’ position on common-sense gun laws. If your congressional representatives refuse to act in response to these shootings, and that includes amping up mental health funding in local, state and federal settings, find out who is running against them and when. Research those people’s positions. Give them money and vote for them and knock on doors for them. For folks who, like me, live in Oregon’s 2nd congressional district, know that Greg Walden is among the top twenty lifetime recipients of money from the NRA. He’s up for reelection this year. Just sayin’.
Let me know what other ideas you might have. I know the list can grow long, but this is what is coming to the surface for me today.
And, of course, I hope it goes without saying:
I have all the time in the world for you.
There’s nothing more important than this.