Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to give a damn.
Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say “How are you?” and then to follow that up with “Okay, now tell me the truth.”
Sometimes all it takes is for someone to put up a red flag. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to pick up the phone.
Today is Suicide Prevention Day. And look, if you’ve stumbled here and you feel like you need to want to hurt yourself or stop the pain forever, then please, talk to someone, call someone, please just stop for a moment and pick up a phone. The number for the Samaritans, in the UK at least, is 116 123; in the US you can call 800-273-8255. Or ask your mate to take you out and buy you a drink.
I don’t know what else to say. I’m fortunate I guess, I’ve never been in that dark a place. But there have been times when I’ve been horribly low, when I didn’t know where to turn, when I just wanted to curl up and sleep. And I hid it pretty well. Maybe I dodged a bullet.
Others aren’t so lucky. And that means we’ve got to look after each other.
That goes for all of us, of course, but this is a Christian blog and so I got thinking about this through the lens of the Church. Because look, I know our churches are busy. We’ve got a lot on and a million jobs to do and about three elderly volunteers to do them with. Ministers have diaries that would turn my hair white at the thought of all the meetings and councils and committees that need to be endured.
But there are times when we’ve got to look at that, times when we have to challenge the corporate model of doing church, with its pastor/manager making sure everyone’s on message and doing their jobs and go back to being a community. And we’ve got to look at the language and attitudes we promote, because sometimes that’s inadvertantly driving people deeper into the dark.
So if that means being radical and dropping an event and thirteen church council meetings to chat with people down the pub then so be it. If that means deciding to not budget for a new sound system so we can spend that money on mental health awareness training for our pastoral visitors then we should do so. If we need to drop a meeting or two so that people can also be taught to care for themselves better then go for it.
Worship is important, vital even. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think God’s interested in our songs if they’re distracting us from noticing the person sitting at the back who can barely get the words out because they’re hurting so much. Our churches need to be spaces of raw honesty rather than places where we pretend everything’s okay because of some impossible obligation.
And then there are those who fall through the cracks, those who take their own lives despite everything. And that leads to guilt and grief, shock and shame, and we have to be able to look after each other then as well.
We’re called to love each other. That’s not just a platitude. And you can preach and you can sing and you can fix the Roof and you can do the flowers. But sometimes the most sacred ministry you – and all the rest of us – can do is to simply and steadfastly give a damn.