There used to be (maybe there still is) a series of advertisements in which Smokey the Bear opined “Only you can prevent forest fires.” I’ll come back to that.
Forest fires are certainly good to prevent, but, let’s face it, God’s creation of humans is far more precious than trees, despite what environmentalists may say. Let me be absolutely crystal clear about this: each and every person, big or small, young or old, attractive or ugly, angelic or broken (as all of us are) is worthwhile. People who know me well know that I’ve had my share of challenges in life. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. I’ve spoken about them to my reader(s) here on occasion. Today, though, I feel it necessary to stand up and say enough is enough! I’ve said it to myself on many occasions, but I try to be quiet with the vast majority of my thoughts. Then, I watched this video (at the bottom of the post). It is the story of Amanda Todd. I saw it mentioned in a CNN post, and I took a few minutes to watch her video. It is chilling.
I don’t want to spend time on the anger I feel at the boy who blackmailed her. I don’t want to lament the attacks on her at school. Things things break my heart; I’m filled with both the deepest sadness and an anger I’d rather not even describe welling up in me from both of these facts.
I do want to spend a moment to talk about Amanda Todd, the girl who didn’t see herself as holding any value anymore. I’ve worked with teens for most of my adult life. I’ve seen Amanda in the faces of countless girls in my youth groups. I’ve seen her in the boys who fight to look so strong while they are broken inside, often without even realizing it themselves. I can’t even count the number of girls (and even boys) who have said that they were cutting to dull the pain of their lives. Each and every time I hear it — each time I see it — it truly breaks my heart.
Now, I’m not polyanna enough to think that all bullying will ever leave the world. I wish I could say that we are ever likely to live in a world in which people don’t hurt like this. But that’s just not true. We are the fallen creatures we are, and there will be pain and suffering in the world. However, just because I know that we will never fully be rid of this kind of thing, we do NOT have to accept that it is okay. This is not okay. This is not normal. To the Amandas out there, I mean the way you are being treated is neither okay nor normal. Your pain is normal, and I beg you, if you are reading this, ask for help. Keep asking. Never give up. The help is there. The love is there. Sometimes, it’s just difficult to see and other times, people don’t realize how much they are failing to express the love inside of them.
So, why did I start by talking about Smokey the Bear? Well, I always remember a friend of mine (I honestly don’t even remember who anymore) once describing our society as autistic. Please forgive me for using that condition in what may seem to be a flippant way, but, to my understanding, it’s accurate. You see, as I understand, one of the key traits in autism is an inability to fully perceive and interact with the people around. Sadly, we now live in a world in which Amandas are either ignored or invisible or little more than objects of scorn. Look around you! I promise you, if you open your eyes, there are Amandas in your life. They are closer than you may believe. People in the world today don’t hear about how much they are loved — either by each other or by God — and it can have, as it did in Amanda Todd’s life, devastating consequences. Remember my comments on disposable people? This is the same problem.
Two thousand years ago, Paul made an important statement: “Say only the good things people need to hear; things that will really help them.” (Ephesians 4:29) How often do we say things that, whether we mean to or not, serve to tear people down. I even hear parents use the excuse that they are toughening their children up for the world. Parents, let me be very clear: the world will toughen your kids up plenty! You do not need to do it for them.
So, like Smokey said, only you can prevent…this. Look around you. Do you see people you love? Tell them. Do you have people to whom you haven’t spoken in a while—people for whom you have been too busy—drop them that quick line just to say you love them. Write that letter you have been meaning to write but too busy. God put all of us here together. He didn’t mean for us to be alone.
Never ever stop telling people that you love them. And always mean it when you say it. Sometimes, they may not need it. Sometimes they may not care to hear it. But, you will find out, that one time, you will say it at just the right time. And that one time can save a life.
There’s one more thing I want to say, here. You will rarely see me say anything about charities or places to give or that I give money, but it seems apropos here. For several years, I have, in lieu of giving stuff for Christmas, given a donation in honor of my friends and loved ones to a charity. This year, after some reflection of people I care for, and more solidified after this story, I’m sending my Christmas donation to To Write Love On Her Arms. Granted, as a seminarian, I don’t make much money. I’ll be sending only a couple hundred bucks. I’m hoping that a reader or two will join me, though. Let’s continue to stop this plague. TWLOHA, you fight in the schools and keep reminding people that there’s hope in life. I will keep reminding people of the hope in God. Together—and with thousands more—we will get the message out. I pray that I will never read another story of Amanda.
I want to point out that I had to go out of my way to avoid linking to the YouTube original of this video. There are still people attacking her on the comments. I refuse to even add traffic to that.