Community Is Action

Seeing the Unseen

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

As we all know, life and peace do not always cooperate with each other, and through this article I hope to shed a little light on how to improve both. I write from personal experience. Not long ago, my state of mind grew weaker due to obscure thoughts generated by years of adversity. In the moment, I was unable to see another way, and I chose the route of suicide in my attempts to stop the pain. Thankfully, I was not successful. 

I have since fully recovered and re-emerged with a vigor, ready to take on whatever life throws my way. I had to figure it out on my own because I did not have anyone in my corner. Therefore, I encourage all who read this to take a stand and befriend a stranger, because you never know how much your kindness will truly matter to that person.

I do not share my struggles and bad choices to gain pity or displace blame but rather I share for insight. It becomes so easy to get entangled in life that we all can overlook those in need as well as our own needs. That overlooked feeling is what was going on in my life, and I did not sense there being a proper outlet to channel my anxieties. It was seemingly one depressing event after another. 

It all started early on with an abusive parent throughout childhood, then causing a car accident at age 18 that took the two lives of my friends’ parents, followed by an unfaithful wife, drug addiction, divorce, losing my house and my family, then going to prison. To say I was emotionally drained is an understatement. I was completely tapped out. 

It is said that suicide is a selfish act, but I feel that statement comes from a place of ignorance. My life was so heavy with misfortune and hardship that the pain had become too much to carry around any longer. I just wanted the pain to stop. With no active support in my corner, it was impossible to recognize that I was being selfish in my suicide attempt. 

There are two problems with this argument that suicide is a selfish act. First, people are too quick to pass judgments that are only disguised efforts to excuse their own disregard. Second, suppressed agony and suicidal tendencies stem from a world where simple outlets of hope and refuge do not exist. Those outlets start within the community. 

“Community” is becoming an abandoned word with a doubtful outlook for recovery. Currently, cellphones and social media occupy and distract the minds of our greatest resources. Modern culture appears centered on quick fixes for extreme societal deterioration. Follow-up care has been lost in a race to gain the highest numbers of people treated. Solutions to the needs of those around us rest at our fingertips, and yet the majority of us do not even bother to raise a helping hand. Community is not subject to one religion, race, or creed and should not be limited to the borders of our townships. Community is that precious child playing in the room next to us just as much as it is the lost soul restlessly sleeping in that alleyway. Everyone deserves the opportunity to overcome the emotions or hardship that hold him or her hostage.

Selfishly and egotistically, political agendas as well as denominational disputes have blinded our society from the devastation troubling our communities. Holding a press conference and commanding change from a high-rise luxury suite does not exactly commission any reassurance to the person who just lost their son to an overdose. Lawmakers at every level fail to see that building the community up from the bottom will cause the top to operate with less friction. 

This way of development does not mean there will be an absence of failures, it just means there will be an educated ability to learn from them and adjust accordingly. Let us look at this metaphorically: a house built with cheap lumber in soft mud will not last. So why do we allow representatives to approach our community that way? Any contractor asked will verify that a stable structure begins with a sound foundation. 

Sadly,more often than not we see the “church” neglecting the members of their own congregation, never mind the community in which the multi-million-dollar building sits. An overwhelming desire to help a single mother get an apartment should take priority over expanding a parking lot for the church. If a church body does not properly tend to the members they do have, they shouldn’t be trying to make more parking spots to fit more people. The need to stay relevant with state-of-the-art furnishings compromises church integrity, inadvertently placing its members on a pedestal. Putting ourselves above anyone, intentionally or not, causes us to look right over his or her head. 

God calls us to show compassion and mercy: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36 AKJV). Compassion is the empathetic approach to actively helping those who suffer. Compassion is listening for that person crying out in misery through the microphone of a drug-filled needle, then answering that call by helping them to sober up.

I hear the desperation in the tired look of a defeated friend. I see the pain in those hidden in the open, wrapped in hopelessness. I feel the potential in those people tossed aside and written off as unsalvageable. Do they not breathe the same air or enjoy the same food? Are they exempt from love or even the affection of another human being? Showing that we care simply takes our right shoulder as a pillow or our left ear as a receiver. 

Maybe life would be better for that person if given a positive word or a hot meal. Imagine the response you would receive by being that bright day, shining through the darkest clouds of someone’s depression. I know that in my moments of darkness, having that ray of sunshine would have made all the difference.

Certainly one lone priest, pastor, or congresswoman cannot do this. It takes effort from a willing community to build itself up. This is not a strenuous chore to scoff at or even some good deed aimed at impressing those around us. Putting words into motion by enthusiastically engaging in positive communal rehabilitation will transform the very face of our environment. Expelling society’s weaknesses with active participation only stands to revive the strength of a once-derelict neighborhood. 

We unfortunately will not be able to help every person, but I guarantee we cannot help anyone if we do not try. Quite simply, our leaders cannot influence the individuals you or I can. Become a leader from your doorstep and do not underestimate the length of your arms in your quest to reach the destitute. Whether it is one person or many, we can make productive waves in that sea of despair. Whom we connect with today, even if it is someone who is somewhere typically avoided, could potentially change the appearance of tomorrow. So my question is clear: what are we willing to do for our community?

Instead of complaining about our neighbor’s paint chipping on their house, let’s gather some people up, buy some paint, and spend the weekend painting that eyesore. We can replace praying for someone by being the answer to one of his or her prayers. Let us not stop at bringing someone to church on Sunday but also extend the offer with shelter during the week. 

Kindness comes in many forms, and it does take patience with proper time invested to help a person in need. This is a call to action because I believe that community is action.

About the Author

Jordan Sparks lives in Muskegon, Mich. He is working toward a B.A. in Faith and Community Leadership through Calvin University’s Calvin Prison Initiative.

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Comments

Thank you for sharing so honestly. I completely agree with the sentiment that we must never see attempted or completed suicide as a selfish act. I have also been in that place where I seriously considered suicide. I saw no way forward, no way out of the place of emotional pain where I found myself. I considered that my behaviors were also hurting others, and that the world would in fact be a better place without me in it - not selfishish thinking at all. I felt unlovable, filled with shame, lost and alone. Thankfully, Jesus met me and let me know that he wanted me to be his child, which I still find totally amazing! Who me!? really!? The importance of community also can't be overstated. May the Lord grant us eyes to see the needs of those around us and respond with the love that we've recieved in Christ Jesus. Thanks again for the article.

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