This week brings about the anniversary of a suicide in our community, Michael Kimmer. His death impacted everyone at Geneva High School in some form or another, whether you were a friend, relative, neighbor or someone who passed him in the hallway and never took a second glance. His death disrupted our little community; suddenly the class of 2013 seemed a little less innocent.
Now, we've all been bullied, but let's not beat around the bush, we've also all bullied others or have at least thought about it. Keep this in mind: No one is purely a victim or villain in high school. But I think the extent to which this person was pushed was way too far.
I've heard every rumor up and down the hallways and from friends of friends as to why this happened or how it happened—simple questions that could take a lifetime to explain, and frankly shouldn't be asked in the first place. You could pitch a million reasons as to why someone would take his or her own life, and it still wouldn't make even a little bit of sense.
Repetition of phrases like "it gets better" or "change for now" or even "I'm here for you" makes their intended comfort lose its meaning. If we want to be a society that truly cares about the prevention of suicide, we must try harder to reach out to those who need help. We have to remind each other that no one should be persecuted, no matter their race, religious background or sexual orientation.
To denigrate someone for any of these reasons is rude and ignorant, and for all you patriots out there, it's really not all that patriotic. The United States of America was founded on principles of freedom, allowing people to practice whatever religion or way of life they choose.
OK, I understand. Many religions don't condone same-sex relationships, even condemn them. But what makes people think they can just look someone in the eye and say, "You were made wrong. I hate the way you are, and therefore I hate you as a person." We're all just human beings, with human feelings. Bruises and scrapes can hurt, but sometimes words can scar for life. We must treat everyone, even people different from us, like people. If you don't like someone or their way of life, fine. Big deal. But it's not your life to dictate or your place to call them out. Let people make their own decisions, and they'll let you do the same.
The hard truth about bullying is that we all do it. It's a horrifying realization, but we've all mocked or teased someone for being different. There isn't a way to eradicate bullying because it's everywhere and in everyone. It's a base and ugly instinct, really: Mankind tries its hardest to stay on top of the food chain, so we look for people "like us" to maintain a sense of normalcy. People who live their lives differently from us scare us to death. If our way of living is not the right way, than whose is? It's a terrifying question that plagues us to the grave. Am I living my life the right way? Is there even a right way to live?
The truth is, the best way to live our lives is by helping others and letting each other know that no one is alone in this fight against the fold. Debilitating loneliness, crippling insecurities and horrible depression are all too common in Geneva, and this suicide three years ago solidified this fact. But it ultimately proved to all of us that we need to do better and try harder. We have to be more accepting, loving and more willing to connect with everyone, not just those who are similar to us. Even weird kids need some love, people. So don't preach to someone that they're going to hell or going to be punished, because that's not our job. Our job is to live the best possible lives that we can, and teasing someone to the point of self destruction is not a part of this job description.
If you see someone upset, comfort them or ask them what's bothering them. If someone acts differently than you, shrug it off. Don't give a person a reason to want to die; give a person a reason to want to live.
Love one another, especially this week.
If you're contemplating suicide and feel like you need someone to talk to, try talking to your counselor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255). Don't think of them as people who don't understand or are just going through the motions to make you feel better and get you out of their office. They are here to help and will do the best they can to give you a reason to live. Let others help you, because I can assure you there are millions of people in this world ready and willing to lift that weight off your shoulders.
No one is alone. This week, make sure all your friends and family see that—remind everyone in your life that they matter. Do everything in your power to let them know that they are amazing. Please give everyone you know a reason to live this week, out of respect for not only Michael Kimmer, but every person who has committed or contemplated suicide.