I live in a really small town. Like a can’t walk into the grocery store without at least knowing one person type of small town. When I went on the World Race my local paper did an interview about me and I still field questions about my “adventures”. We have Stars Hollow type town events with a Swedish theme and a daily basis there is a Swedish music playing over the town loud speakers and you can always find the lovely Swedish lady in her Swedish garb sitting outside her shop.
When tragedy strikes our town it hits pretty hard. I’ll never forget a father of a friend of mine that passed away when I was in Junior high. It felt like the entire population felt the impact of it and was at the funeral celebrating his life. It was a bittersweet moment; bitter for the occasion but sweet to see people coming together to lay hands on one another’s shoulder and comfort in that moment.
Yes, there are the small town hindrances. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Gossip runs a wee bit rampant and people can be judgemental. But if you can widen your eyes and look beyond that you will see the whimsy, the life and the loveliness that abounds down our main street and through the mismatched houses, through stories told by old murals and through overhearing the men that sit at the donut shop every morning for their coffee. You can find comfort in knowing that your kids will most likely walk at graduation in high school with people that they sat next to in preschool. Stability in small towns is a gift and a curse, but we just can’t narrow our eyes to what is negative.
This past week the local high school where I went, where all of my aunts and uncles and my mom and my brothers all went was hit with tragedy. Two students over the course of a week committed suicide; one freshman and one senior. The staff and students and the community are reeling.
And so is the comment section of the news articles that have been going online.
I hate comment sections. I rarely read them or dabble in them. Because usually they make me angry. There was one that hit me. I’m not going to quote it but I am going to say this:
There is life and God and Holy Spirit in this small town amidst everything.
People can see our sweet little town and see a conservative, Bible thumping place full of hypocrites. And yes, sometimes I have seen that. I have been hit by that and hurt by it.
But we have to choose to see the sweet along with the bitter.
Last year when I got home from the world race I was a wreck. I didn’t want to go to church, didn’t want to read my Bible or talk to God. But without a fail, once or twice every week I would find myself sitting in Common Ground Coffee House. It’s a sweet coffee shop that is run by a church in the town.
I couldn’t go to church but I could go there.
And even though I felt wrecked and in no way full of any kind of life it was still there in that place, bursting out of the seams and pouring out the door. The conversation that would occur around me were full of laughter and sweetness, victory and celebration and oh so much joy. And that cannot occur unless there is life, unless there is Holy Spirit~ unless there is Christ.
And because of that light and life and Holy Spirit I found words and truths that were buried deep inside me because I allowed the light and life in me to come alive in little bits and pieces in that place.
And now in the midst of sadness and death I know that people will go there to talk and lay a hand on each others shoulder and question and ask why, but they choose to go there because there is life and light.
And darkness cannot exist inside of light. Because light BANISHES darkness.
So to me, just that small picture shows me that there is still life and light and Christ in this tiny town. There is still goodness.
So yes, there are really tragic, bitter things that have occurred within the city limits of this small town. There are conversations that have had to be had that I wish on no teenager.
But there is also the sweetness of a prayer circle on a high school campus, of high schoolers opening their eyes to what it means to listen and be there for someone, really be there. Of conversations between two people who didn’t know each other yesterday. Of casseroles and meals being made for a family you might not even know.
In the midst of death there is life happening.
If we spent our days solely seeing the pain and the hurt and the bitter, that is all we would see. Some days yes, we have to scavenge to find the sweet and the joy.
But it’s always there, whether or not we choose to admit it.
So please, speak life. Call out words and prayers of hope and encourage and sweetness. Find places of life and replicate them. It’s easy to speak to the darkness and the violence and the things that are ugly. It takes more to stand and look them in the face and tell them to go back where they belong.
Let’s come together to speak life.
(a gofundme account that was created by a student to spread the word about depression and suicide)