I’ve never been close to catastrophe of any sorts. Today, however, I turned left onto the overpass to come home and saw that traffic was slowing and cruiser lights were flashing. Figuring it was an accident, I did the slow drive by… however, I saw a man climbing around the tall fencing of the overpass, dressed in all black and looking down. Cops were trying to keep onlookers on foot from approaching. It dawned on me: he was threatening to jump.
I’ve never sobbed for someone I didn’t know until today, either. But my heart was up around my eyeballs as I fully absorbed what was happening; that feeling of complete helplessness overwhelmed me. According to the news of FB
, they got him down within the next half hour. The police informed the news that the man was recently released from the Shelby County jail and had headed straight for the overpass.
This incident occurred right after I had passed 2 vans full of mentally handicapped adults and had allowed my mind to wonder what life was like for those individuals and those that work with them. Where the vans were going. The name of one of them had something to do with independence. I wondered how close to independence many of them ever reached.
Which came after this morning’s reading
by a mother of a child with significant physical and mental challenges. I appreciated her honesty about her feelings regarding her situation.
It’s as if I spent my morning observing the spectrum of the affects of developmental disabilities and physical illness. Beginning with the blog, this mother lived amid frustrating challenges, but admittedly was well resourced. She made reference to her “team” at the school who helped get her son everything he might need. She clearly understood her role as his advocate.
And then these vans of people – they didn’t have families necessarily living with them to take care of them, but they had support and structure.
But this guy, who I can only assume needs some sort of professional help (I feel that’s a fair assumption?), feels so utterly helpless that the best solution he came up with was to end it all. His cries for help likely unheard, even to the point of breaking the law, until he stopped traffic with a threat.
My mind immediately went to Jesus and Legion, the man with 100 “evil spirits” in him. The locals had chained him to a tree, but he kept getting loose. He’d hurt himself. “Night and day he would cry out” (Mark 5:5). He was left to live alone in the cemetery.
He approaches Jesus, slightly scared, shouting, “What do you want with me? Don’t hurt me!”
And Jesus asks him, “What is your name?”
The man responds “Legion, for we are many.” He names himself by his situation, his condition.
Evil spirits, mental illness, physical challenges… how often we simply don’t see the person in the midst of the condition. Created in God’s image, the same as I. And their families who love them the best they know how.
I know from personal experience that often times families simply don’t know how to deal with those who have these kinds of difficulties. They don’t know anyone else who has faced it, they’re not well connected and don’t know who to ask for resources or direction. I have a family member with a pretty significant diagnosis and can no longer live independently; however, his parents aren’t able to keep with the demands of having him at home and don’t know where to find a place to send him to live. Not to mention the funds involved with having him live in any sort of group home.
What’s a parent to do?
And so I ask, how have we – how have I – began to meet the needs of individuals in this situation? How have we shined light into dark places? How have we come behind and said, “Don’t jump. You matter.”?
My evangelical roots would look at this and say, “what does this work have to do with sharing the gospel?” and my liberal wings respond back with “everything, because it’s the work Jesus did.” But how do we, who aren’t necessarily called into that field that assists in the day-to-day, able to help? How do we shine light? When do our prayers lead us to our presence and gifts and service in the situation?
I just don’t know. But I came home and attempted to console my soul with – you guessed it – David Crowder. His entire Church Music album sings to this, if you ask me. I prayed through lunch with SMS Shine, reminding myself to “shine your light so I can see it; lift it up for the whole world needs it. Love has come, what joy to hear it: He has overcome. He has overcome.”