When you realize what you thought ‘won’t happen here’ is actually here, right in your backyard

Sitting in our homes in rural Pennsylvania we often watched the news and thought to ourselves, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We watched children being killed in their schools by children their own age and drug dealers being arrested and drive by shootings and little babies being killed by their mother’s live in boyfriend.

And we thought, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We thought that until one day we were picking up our local newspapers and turning on our local news and suddenly, as if out of nowhere, it was here. 

There it was – a teenager dead – only 13, by suicide. Rumors that he was bullied and rumors that he was just depressed and couldn’t pull himself out of the pit.  Many didn’t know why but they knew it hurt. A family was hurting. A community was hurting.

And then there it was again – a teenager charged with not only threatening to become a school shooter and trying to buy a handgun so he could become one – right here, in our backyard, down the street from our homes, at the school we send our children to – but also being charged with rape.

A teenager.

A kid.

A child.

Someone’s child.

One of our neighbors.

One of God’s children.

Filled with hate at an age that should be filled with hope.

We live in a small collection of towns, two in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Their borders blend together and spill over into each other. Sometimes we like to pretend life here is fairly idyllic and that we all sit on our front porches in a rocking chair and wave at the children riding by on their bikes.

But, that’s not true, and we know it and we don’t like it.

Our towns are hurting.

Our neighbors are hurting.

Our children are hurting.

And hurt people hurt people.

Behind closed doors there are drugs being pushed through needles into veins while a baby sits to one side and plays with a rattle.

Behind closed doors young children are being ignored or told they aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or enough at all because if they were mom and dad might spend a little more time with them, stop drinking, stop shooting up or stop smacking them in the head no matter what they do.

Behind closed doors people are frightened.

They are frightened of not fitting in, of not measuring up, of there being no God, of there being a God.

Behind closed doors people ask if there was a God then why did their mom die, why did their dad leave, why is their mom more interested in drinking or smoking or snorting than hugging them and telling them it’s going to be ok?

Behind closed doors is the anger that has been pushed down day after day and week after week and year after year and now it’s spilling out and all over and it looks like arrogance and it looks like boldness, but what it is is fear, sadness, despair, loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and anxiety.

Anxiety looks a lot like anger when you don’t know where to turn.

Fear looks a lot like anger when no one listens.

Loneliness looks a lot like anger when no one cares.

Despair looks a lot like anger when you feel rejected and lost and confused and twisted all up inside like a rope tied tight on a tree limb.

Let’s be honest, we’d rather keep the doors closed. We don’t want to know what is happening behind those closed doors because if we knew we’d have to do something and if we had to do something we’d have to get involved and if we had to get involved we might get hurt.

And then it would go around and around and around again.

Hurt people hurt people.

The first time I heard someone say that – hurt people hurt people – I was angry.

I was the one that was hurt. Why should I care if the other person was hurting?

I didn’t care.

I didn’t want to care.

I never would care.

But eventually I did. 

I hurt.

The other person hurt.

We hurt together.

When we hurt together we no longer wanted to hurt others.

Maybe that’s what we need these days.

Maybe we need to hurt together.

So, it’s here now, not only there – on the news, on the TV, in the paper – in another community.

The pain is here.

Death is here, knocking on our doors.

Hate is here, walking the halls of our schools.

We can take away their weapons, we can lock them away, but until we stop the hurt they will keep coming.

The hurting want the pain to stop but if they can’t stop it they want others to suffer along with them because then they won’t suffer alone anymore.

They will find weapons even if laws say they can’t have those weapons.

They will use whatever they can to hurt and take away just as they have had things held back or taken away.

How do you stop the hurt? 

How do you heal a heart?

How do you whisper hope to a soul lost in the darkness of feeling worthless, unneeded, unnecessary? 

You don’t.

He does. 

God created us, He will heal us.

Then why is there pain? Why is there hurt? Why do humans hurt each other?

I don’t know.

There is sin and I don’t know why.

There is hurt and there was a fall from heaven of a heavenly being who said he would be God and God would not. When that happened pain entered what should have been a perfect world.

God doesn’t stop it. 

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why we are here or why we keep living or why we keep wanting to live.

So many of us want to live. 

Many say they want to die. They tell the world they want to die.

They tell their friends they’ll make sure they die, on their own terms and in their own way, but really, if they could only see through the fog that has fallen on them they would admit – it’s not that they don’t want to live it’s that they want someone else to tell them they are worthy of living.

Isn’t that what we all need? To know we are worthy. To be reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by someone who loves us even when no one else will.

If we are really honest, we don’t want to see behind those closed doors because we don’t know where to start.

“But there are so many,” we think. “We can’t save them all. We can’t stop it all.”

We can’t save them all. 

Maybe we can save one.

And then one more.

And one more.

And one more.

And that one can save one and on it will go until maybe not all are saved from the darkness of hurting others but there are more than there were who can see light instead of dark.