The holidays are a time of big expectations. Children anticipate finding the perfect gift; the one they have longed for, tucked neatly under the tree on Christmas morning. Parents scramble to ensure the dreamy expectations of children are met. And almost of all of us look forward to perfectly executed parties, perfectly delicious meals, and traditions that create perfectly wonderful memories.
But as some of us wade through the wrapping paper and ribbons left during the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas morning, for others the most important expectations have gone unrealized, and holiday anticipation has been reduced to bitter disappointment.
In the wake of the hectic season of giving, those who are lonely, disappointed and have received little in the way of gifts or good company, are most at-risk for falling into depression, despair, and a sense that they are neither remembered nor loved. The one gift that cannot be wrapped in beautiful ribbons and tucked neatly under a Christmas tree is the gift most longed for, most precious to those who love us and need us. That gift is our time.
Not so long ago, just a generation or two, families spent their spare time together, relaxing on the front porch or in the kitchen, talking face to face. Those happy moments have been replaced by more efficient, but perhaps less human, modes of communication. Texting, listening to iPods, talking on cell phones, and the ubiquitous surfing of the web, may be inhibiting the transmission and reception of emotional intimacy by placing between us invisible barriers of distraction and diversion.
In what is a grim record for Mesa County, in 2012 to date, 47 families have lost loved ones to suicide. The holidays will very likely be marred by their ongoing suffering and memories of loss, all of which seem magnified by the high expectations of the holiday season.
In the midst of their losses one common theme has emerged; a lesson for all of us. That lesson is one that tells us about the value of personal presence, and of responding to those who need someone to care for them, by offering them the gift of a little time. What human has ever regretted spending too much time loving, caring, and giving the gift of themselves?
Interviews with relatives and associates of victims of suicide often reveal some or all of the causes that lead to the unfortunate act. One common component of such interviews are remarks such as, "they kept saying they were going to do it," "they talked about committing suicide, but I thought they were just trying to get attention," or "I didn't take them seriously enough to do something about it."
Such admissions make one pause and wonder if the distractions of life, those things that crowd our minds and occupy our hands, might be best laid down from time to time so we can pick up a hand, and spend a little time with a suffering friend.
Many in Mesa County are hurting. Large numbers of people in our community are without hope, or are confused, having run out of good options, not knowing what to do next. We, the residents of Mesa County, embody a wonderful answer to these tough times.
In spite of economic difficulties, we can give the greatest gifts any human can offer - our time, our presence, our hands and our hearts. Take the time to listen to people in your family, your neighbors, and colleagues. Slow down long enough to make sure you have heard what they need you to hear. Take their words to heart, and take the time to act if they have turned to you for help.
It's easy to convince ourselves that we are so busy doing good things that we don't have time to do the important things. We prioritize how we spend our energy and time. Our lives are filled with pressing tasks. Our calendars are filled with "things to do." But have we allowed our responsibilities to those "things" to overshadow the more important responsibilities we have to each other.
As you consider the number of families in Mesa County who have lost dear ones to suicide; the son or daughter, mother or father, or brother or sister who ran out of hope and felt they had no more options, it becomes apparent that this is a teachable moment. This is a moment, a time of year, when you can review your priorities and consider how "you," the best gift you can give, can make a difference, one life at a time.
Coalition for Hope is a collaboration of concerned citizens in Mesa County working on ways to draw more attention to the mental health needs of our community and to encourage people to reach out to each other. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.