Saturday night a student at the high school I teach at killed herself. I hope you’ll join me in praying for the whole school community as we struggle to understand this action. I didn’t know the young girl. It’s funny how actions of people you’ve never met can end up impacting you.
The school has this really amazing response to this sort of event. They put this big giant sheet of paper (do they still call it butcher paper) up along the wall. At the top, in large letters, are the words “What we remember.” Kids are allowed, even welcomed, to not only write memories, thoughts, feelings up on the paper. And more than that, they stay there for a little while… sometimes a long while.
I was moved by the scene. Kids crying, trying to laugh, kids holding hands, hugging. If you work with adolescents, you know that sexuality just drips off of everything they do, think, and say. Yet in this place, it was like the hormones just got turned off. I saw them holding each other close, rubbing each others backs, just there, fully physically present, but it wasn’t like there was some PG-13 rating to the whole deal.
It was almost holy. I guess that these things strip away our pretenses and anhilate the insignifcant. They burn away our delusions about things that seemed so important just a few days before.
What it reminded me of, as much as anything, is what I know about the wailing wall, the last remnants of the second temple in Jerusalem. I tried to express all these ideas in the poem you can find here. I wanted to express these ideas in prose, though, too, because I know that people can sometimes tune out poetry, and this was just so powerful, and holy, and sad… I wanted to share it.
The messages ran the gamut. There was the cliched, and sentiments that felt rehashed and rehearsed. There was the brutally raw. Their was profound observations, and there was ramblings that just didn’t make any sense. There was incredible stuff, sweet and kind and tender.
But the piece of paper… it was just a piece of paper. And the things were written on it, they were just writing. For me, this was sort-of a decoy, almost an amazing, wonderful, Godly bait-and-switch.
This community was created in the shadow of the loss. That was the point. That was the amazing part, that was what the kids needed, and that’s what they got.