My Brother’s Keeper…
by Stephen Doherty
July 18th, 2021
“You cannot do kindness too soon,
for you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
I support a Denver organization called Rachel’s Challenge ( Affiliates (usachampion.com). Rachel Scott was the first student gunned down at Columbine High School and her Father, Darrell Scott, has dedicated the last two decades to stemming school violence through his national outreach program.
He has met with five Presidents and “touched” the lives of twenty-million students, in his efforts to gain support for changing the student culture that spawned Harris and Klebold. God only knows how many lives he has saved by confronting the cultural root causes of school violence – cruelty and bullying.
I recently attended a Rachel’s Challenge fund raiser where Darrell Scott quoted some statistics that shook me to my core. In the twenty years since Columbine, some 400 school children have been killed across America by mass shootings.
Horrific, of course, but stunning when compared to another number involving our kids. During the same twenty-year time period – over 100,000 students have taken their own life and that number has increased by over 50% in just the last ten years! Do the math and then try and make sense of the hysteria over school shootings versus the relative silence over the astronomical number of teen suicides.
I cannot conceive of life becoming so onerous and overwhelming, at such a young age, as to trigger an exit strategy as the only solution. I also know that there is significant and meaningful mental illness and organic root causes associated with teen suicides that make diagnosis difficult and frustrating for loved ones trying to intervene or even be aware of the mental erosion leading to a young person taking their own life.
Bless Darrell Scott and his Rachel’s Challenge organization for pursuing cultural change at the most meaningful social institutions of a young person’s life – their schools. By confronting the specter of adolescent bullying and cruelty – he has provided many a safe haven for otherwise taunted and tormented teens.
Society and culture often lack the perquisite empathy and compassion one might expect from a civilized people. Despite living in the greatest nation to ever exist and to have opportunities for success unlike any other civilization in history, we still lose thousands of young people into the black hole of despair and hopelessness. I think suicides could be reduced dramatically if more people simply assumed a posture of compassion and empathy and were more self-aware of the world around them.
Let’s face it, to an extreme – our culture and society suffers an over-emphasis on “ME” versus my neighbor or my brother. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such a chaotic cultural maelstrom masquerading as a civilized society. The data speaks for itself. Its volume – unmistakable.
I know few things with more certainty than the healing power of a random act of kindness. I have experienced, as many of you have, depths and darkness that might otherwise have consumed or even destroyed me, absent a lifeline from a concerned friend who simply saw and acted upon an opportunity to be decent and compassionate. We all possess the necessary emotional rope to toss to our fellow brothers and sisters in times of strife and despair.
We simply need the self awareness to see through clearer and more compassionate eyes and to feel through a more softened conscience and spirituality. Despite all the beauty and glory that defines this great nation, caring and kindness needs to become a more plentiful commodity if we hope to pull more of our loved ones from the cliff’s edge. Because, truly…we are our brother’s keeper.
“It’s not what we have in our life,
but who we have in our life that counts.” —J.M. Laurence