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You Are Not Alone

You are not alone
By JOHN BELL SMITHBACK


When things go wrong and you feel that no one understands, remember this: there are those who love you...


YOU don’t know me, but I know you. You’re the quiet person who sits at the back of the room. Or maybe you're the one by the window, the one with a frown on your face. You’ve been in deep thought lately, and it’s plain to see you’re not happy.

Maybe it’s something to do with school, with your examinations. You don’t think you’ve done well enough. You think you’ve been a disappointment to your teachers and parents.

And, of course, you think it’s your fault. You’re to blame. Worst of all, you can’t talk to anyone about it. Nobody would understand because it’s your problem and yours alone.

That’s what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. Believe me, there are a lot of people who would understand because many of us have been there. I’d understand, for I was there myself once upon a time. And also, I had a brother who was much like you.

I’m guessing, but I think Jimmy was just about your age. And like you, he set out with big and wonderful plans in his mind. He was going to study hard, get good grades and learn everything he could while he had the opportunity. He was alert and happy. A new road stretched out before him, and then – we don’t know why – something happened.

Something seemed to go wrong, and I noticed that his ambition was slowly fading away. He began going around with a worried look on his face. In fact, he had the same look that I see on your face today.

I didn’t see Jimmy for several weeks because I was busy with my work, but later I read some of the notes he kept in a ledger in his room. Like others before him, he imagined that his problems were unique, that no one had ever felt the way he did. Nor did they have the same worries.

Worse, he began living in silence, not willing to talk to anyone. Who would understand? Who could help? Nothing anyone said or did was going to change matters.

Those were his thoughts, but he was wrong. But by then something fearful had taken over and he was so absorbed in himself that nothing in life seemed to matter.

Gone were his dreams, and even those around him – those who would always love him no matter what – seemed to have lost their importance to him. And in the end, he gave in to those dark thoughts within his head and took his life.

That was a long time ago, but even with the passage of time it’s not easy talking about this. But talk I must, because I want you to understand that none of us is ever alone, and when someone does something like that, when someone destroys himself or herself, there are consequences beyond measure.

When the police called to tell me what Jimmy had done to himself, I couldn’t believe it. He was my dear young brother, a boy I had always been close to. We played together, laughed together, studied together, ate our meals together, went swimming in the pool by day, and lay on the grass in the park watching the stars at night. He was as alive and well as you or I. And then ...

He was no longer there, and I cried as I had never cried before. The minutes passed, then a half-hour, then an hour, and finally I had to wash away my tears and go tell our parents.

My father had heard from the police that something had happened to Jimmy, but he didn’t know what. My parents were standing before the house waiting when I arrived home, their faces grey as chalk, drained of all signs of emotion except fear. Thinking the worst, they wanted me to smile and tell them that Jimmy was all right. Instead, I shook my head and told them he was dead.

My mother fell to the ground and rolled into a ball. She let out a long, deep cry, the sound of which was like nothing I had ever heard.

My father’s face changed. He took on the look of someone many years older, and for several moments he stood frozen, almost as though paralysed. And then, above my mother’s deep moaning, he opened his mouth and cried in sounds and words that I couldn’t understand.

A thin man with glasses, he ran into the house screaming, shouting, crying, pleading, begging, and as he did, he ran full speed into one of the walls. Turning, he ran as hard as he could and smashed into the opposite wall. Back and forth, back and forth he ran, hitting the walls, his glasses broken, blood coursing down his face ... until I took hold of him and held him tightly in my arms. He suddenly became limp. I put him in a chair and fetched my mother from the lawn, and there we sat, each of us weeping.

Years have passed. My parents still look at Jimmy’s photo and cry. My mother still talks of him as though he only recently left the room. My father has become a very quiet man. I don’t often see him smiling any more.

And I? You’ve heard the expression, “to bottle things up inside”? All my thoughts and feelings are there, bottled up, and that’s my message to you: you are important, you are unique, you are the very life and breath of the people around you.

Think of it: if one of them were to suddenly disappear, how would you feel? A brother, sister, mother, father ... what would your thoughts be if one of them vanished from your life? If one of them did what Jimmy did?

Think about that. And remember: there is no problem that cannot be solved. And most of all, remember that those who have nourished you, encouraged you, worried about you ... they love you. Those who are left behind, they never stop crying.


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