Monday, September 18, 2017
“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.” ― Billy Graham
I spent over thirty years helping to try to prevent youth suicide. I worked hot lines as a volunteer at crisis centers in Los Angeles. I served on the board and helped in a small way to get the crisis center in Northwest Arkansas started, even serving as its first interim director. I worked with Lt. Governor, Winston Bryant, as a member of the Youth Suicide Prevention Commission in Arkansas for years. I served on the board of the NWACIC for six years and consulted for years after that. I did counseling, grief counseling, live television interviews, wrote and directed a video for schools that was used in over twenty states (through the Lt. Governors of those states) to raise awareness of the problem, and helped raise money to keep the crisis center operating.
However, not once in all those years could I or any of us ever claim to have saved a single life. We could count the number of calls that we received, the number of workers and the hours that they worked, the number of cities and schools where we made presentations and distributed literature, but we could never claim that we saved even one life. I was once asked in a television interview why we continued to work so hard when we had no way of knowing if we were successful or not. My answer was simply that if we knew that young people were taking their own lives, and we did nothing to try to stop it, we couldn’t live with ourselves—it was and is the right thing to do. It was enough for me. Many of the men and women with whom I worked had lost children to suicide (some as young as ten years old) and they wanted to try to keep others from going through the same pain that they had endured. What really mattered was that we knew there were serious problems that ended young lives and shattered the lives of those who loved them—and to do nothing was simply not an option. For those of us who voluntarily offered our time, our service, our shared pain, and our shared labor, what was important was that we were doing something, even if it was something that could never be measured in terms of lives saved.
It was never easy, but it was always worth it. None of us could ever have been convinced that what we did was meaningless just because their were no numbers to show that what we had done had saved lives we could count. It was enough for us to know that we did all we could, all we knew to do, and that we never gave up. Crisis centers, suicide hot lines, internet contact, and every other type of help is still being offered and used. If we know there is a problem, even if we don’t know how successful we are at solving it, we cannot ignore it if we love others as Christ loved us. How can we possibly say that we value the lives of young people and turn our backs on even one possibility of saving one of those lives? It is nice to be able to show how many meals were served to the homeless, how many shelter beds were filled, how many jobs were able to be filled, how many filled the pews of the churches, how many filled the seats in the AA meetings, and how many filled the stadiums of Promise Keepers, but suicide prevention simply doesn’t allow us the luxury of those kinds of feelings of accomplishment. Sometimes, it is not the results that are important, but the efforts made to tackle the problem—knowing that never really knowing is a part of that process. I do not regret a single minute spent, not do I believe any of the other thousands of volunteers do either. Our sense of accomplishment had to come just from knowing we were making the attempt and were always caring, always loving, and always hoping that we were giving young people a chance at a meaningful life. It was enough. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called, and He never promises good feelings from recognizable accomplishments. He calls us to help those in need and rewards not our successes, but our valiant attempts to be obedient and faithful servants—and that alone. We cannot feed all the hungry, heal all the sick, free all the oppressed, but neither can we turn our backs to them or fail to try because we can’t count our successes. When God calls, we respond without conditions. Christ is counting on us and we can count on Christ.