Honesty, openness, caring. Encouragement in spades, I hope. Hang in there.

**PLEASE NOTE: I have again made this the “sticky” post (i.e. the first post anyone sees when coming to the page) because I believe that, if you read no other posts, this one is the one that is most important and has the most impact in terms of message and encouragement. All new posts will appear below it and thank you for understanding! 

I was thinking of different things to blog about, today. Some were cheery, some were silly, some were entirely too close to the Sunshine and Rainbows Coming Out of Your Backside, now that I look back at them, to be honest with you. I started this site as a way of posting thoughts and ideas, but above all as a vehicle to offer encouragement. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that encouragement comes in many different packages. Not all of them are trite, smiley faced emoticons or pictures of cute kittens that say “Hang in there!” Sometimes, they come wrapped in tragedy, whether they be ours or someone else’s. Seems incongruous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. If I may ask a favor of you, the reader – if you never have read another post on this page; if you never read another one, please read this one. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I believe this blog post may be the most important one I ever put on here. Why? I have no idea. I can’t see the future – but I believe someone, at some time, will read this and it will speak to them. It will be a message of encouragement, but there are going to be some bumps along the way. Hang on.

I was trying to find an image from a graphic novel that I have, entitled, “JLA : Liberty and Justice.” To make a long story short, rumors of a plague are spreading and in one panel a girl decides to end it quickly by jumping from a bridge instead of suffering alone. The final image on the page is Superman holding her in his arms and the caption reads, “But on this night, no one was forgotten, least of all by those who had promised to save others from despair.” I couldn’t find that one. I am glad I couldn’t actually, because I found this one, instead. It’s a section from another story in which Superman deals with a young girl who has decided to end her life by jumping from a building ledge. I don’t know if it’s considered good form or poor to post a link rather than the image itself, but the images were long, so please forgive me and don’t be put off by having to go to the actual page and read it. Just read it. The post won’t make much sense if you don’t. I’ll wait. I promise.

http://imgur.com/gallery/Ijdxh

Wasn’t that something? As I finished reading it, I suddenly realized that I had my post. See, I could easily identify with both people in that story. I could identify with the Man of Steel, and I could identify (God knows I could identify) with the girl on the ledge. I’ve been in the position of raging at the unfairness of life and being the one whose only answer to give was “Because life isn’t fair or unfair; it just is.”  In the Bible they call that “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust.” 

I probably dreamed of saving the world at one time; heck, as a lifetime fan of Superman I KNOW I did, but I started out truly believing I would save just one person. In this case, it was my niece, Rebecca whom I loved dearly; whom I played with, watched and re-enacted “Superman II” with about a bazillion times, re-enacted episodes of The Munsters with (strangely enough, I always had to play Herman)  and who ultimately ended up dying of cystic fibrosis at the age of 8. I always knew she was sick, but that didn’t matter, you see. I was her smart “Uncle Clark” (She really did call me that – a privilege none of my other nieces or nephews were allowed to enjoy) who promised her that I was going to grow up, find a cure for her disease and cure her so that she could play and not have to go to the hospital for breathing treatments, not be sick, and be able to play like all her friends. I didn’t tell her I’d try, I didn’t tell her I’d give it my best; I promised her, in all my youthful ignorance, that I’d do it. Period. She believed me. I can still see her smiling.

Yet she died. One day my brother Jeff came and got me from school. When we got in the car he said “Jame, Bec died this morning.”  My entire world self-destructed. it was only years later, when i finally started to come apart at the seams, mentally, and went to counseling in college that I realized that from that day on, I carried the burden of believing I had lied to her. I LIED. Not only had I not saved her, I had lied to her, and I never forgave myself for it.

As I read the comic and saw the pain on Superman’s face when he spoke of wanting to save the world; when he said “…and sometimes…we don’t.”  I felt that pain again. When he spoke of his friend who “checked out early,” I saw again a girl I watched, literally, grow up in a time when coming from a home of mixed parentage (white and black), as well as a home with an absent father was a curse in my little home town and who was roundly ostracized for it and called about every racial slur you could come up with. A girl who used to come on the bus still eating her breakfast (usually something like toast) and who would sit by me because I was pretty much the only one who would allow her to. (They lived right down the road from me; I knew she and her brother well)  A girl who in all probability I wasn’t half as good a friend to as I needed to be and who decided one night that her life was no longer worth living. At the age of 16, she hanged herself in a girls’ home in Schenectady. I remembered coming home and being told of it and having to literally put a plate down so that I didn’t throw it into a wall in a blind fury. She never got a break, that girl, and in the end, she decided there weren’t going to be any more good days for her, I suppose.

She died, too, despite all my high sounding words and good intentions.

When the girl spoke of burying her mother, I could identify with it. I’ve buried a mother, a father at 17, a brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and friends of friends. It seems, sometimes, in my 44 years of life that it’s been one long funeral. In the words of the poet, Thomas Moore, “I feel like one who treads, alone, some banquet hall, deserted. Whose lights are fled, whose garlands, dead, and all, but he, departed.”  As a home dad with two special needs sons and who was diagnosed epileptic about 2 years ago, I could readily identify with the times of hopelessness that come upon you when you look around and say things like, “Really? Is THIS the life I expected?” “Is this all there is?” Back in the days when I dreamed of being a nuclear physicist, a meteorologist, or even just “too busy helping other people to ever be married,” I would have laughed at anyone who told me what my life would turn out to be, too. I could identify with those feelings, that she expressed.

I can even identify with suicidal thoughts, as I am sure all of us can, from one time or another in our lives. I have had days when my life has nosedived and crashed, HARD, into the ground.

Yet, in that story, there is hope, and there is encouragement, just as there is in MY story. The hope and encouragement comes not from Superman swooping in, solving the problems and saving the day, all while lecturing the person on how suicide is “no way out” and showing them being led off to a better life by helpful doctors, as it would have been once upon a time.  It comes, instead, from Superman doing what we all can do; being human, being vulnerable, and caring enough to help. Caring enough to listen. Caring enough to care. He doesn’t lecture, he doesn’t push, he doesn’t anything except care. He gives the girl room, and he doesn’t try and downplay what she’s feeling. The encouragement that he gives, the hope that he gives, I have received a hundredfold from my friends and my family. I have been blessed beyond words to have had friends who cared enough to listen, and to be there; family who have cared enough to listen (my sister, my brothers, my mother) and an unshakable faith that, in the end, this is not all that there is.

I don’t know where you are right now. I don’t know what you are facing, have faced, or may face. To you, all I can do is offer this: you are not alone.  If you are in pain, or you are suffering, you are not the only one who is. There are those who care, and those who will listen. Don’t give in, and don’t give up. Superman said “If you think there’s a chance that there may be one more happy day out there, take my hand.” I’m here to tell you that there IS another happy day. DON’T GIVE UP.

I’m also here to say to you, the reader, that if you are not going through these things but you know those who are, don’t be afraid to be the one who steps up alongside them and offers to listen. We live in a world that is rapidly becoming faster and faster paced, and with the advent of so many electronic gadgets and ways of keeping in contact with one another over electronic mediums, is also becoming less and less human. We live in a society where people are “afraid to look foolish,” or “afraid they may misunderstand.” Don’t let that stop you or make you be distant from others. You may not be able to save everyone; indeed, no one can – but you never know what difference YOU may make with just a word, a smile, or a kind gesture. It may mean nothing to you, but it may, literally, mean everything to someone else.

I should know – I’m living proof of what a difference it can make, and I’m eternally grateful.

God bless today, my friend.