Living Wright: Encouraging words can save a child's life
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
10/02/12 at 5:15 AM
Go to Jason Ashley Wright's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Encouraging words can save a child's life
Silly and prone to fantasy as I was growing up, I never thought
Despite this basic grasp of humanity, however, death was far enough away as to seem inconsequential.
Death came at age 100 or more, I thought, after you had a chance for Willard Scott to say your name and show your wrinkled mug during the weather on "Today."
Those times were sweeter, or at least seem so thanks to 20/20 retrospect. Loved ones pass away two, three, even four decades before their five-second shots at morning-show stardom. More rarely, they go even younger, from cancer, car wrecks, heart disease.
But it's especially jarring when children die. It's sadder still when kids leave this world by their own hands.
Wednesday will be a week since 13-year-old Cade Poulos took his life in the crowded hallway of Stillwater Junior High School. It's an absolute shame more people didn't have an opportunity to meet him and know him. After all, everyone's worth getting to know. And everyone's worth knowing they're loved.
As fellow World reporter Kim Archer discussed in her Sunday story, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Oklahoma teens. The national youth suicide rate is 7.3 per 100,000. Our state's rate is 9.4.
I don't presume to know the perils and social predicaments of today's school hallways, but I remember mine and cringe. My 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, plus the fact I kept my gaze toward the floor between classes, may have saved me from being physically assaulted. That didn't stop the name-calling, threats and critiques of my hair, acne or choice of clothes.
I wasn't the only kid picked on or considered somewhat of an outcast, but it felt like I was absolutely alone. In seventh and ninth grades, I thought about suicide occasionally. Never had a plan, but it lingered on my mind. Same for age 24 to 29, until I sought help.
At 37, Lord knows I'm at least two or three bricks shy of a load, but I've managed to exorcise certain demons and utilize some of the better angels of my nature.
I'm not a parent. But having been a depressed kid with dark thoughts, I can tell any mom, dad, guardian, teacher, neighbor or friend that it doesn't necessarily take a whole lot to pull someone a safer distance back from the edge. I thank God daily for parents who loved me and continue to love me despite my faults, idiosyncrasies and general weirdness. They are the reasons I'm still breathing.
You - yes, you, sir, miss or madam, whoever's reading this - can help turn the tide of tragedy among our state's young people. You can do this through encouragement, which is an often underutilized tenet of love. It's as easy as listening to students' dreams and applauding them, not mocking them.
It's reminding them they are loved more than they'll ever know, and people they haven't even met pray for them daily. It's going out of your way to ask why they seem sad. Your small kindness may be life-saving.
And remind them all, with their lives, loves, accomplishments and experiences ahead of them, that they are all more than worth reading about in the newspaper, and never because of something tragic.
They know they're mortal; they just may need help now seeing how precious such a thing is.