It's not often you get the chance to see what might have happened if you had not been there. We never see, actually, how much good our "help" has been. The alternative didn't happen, so you don't see it. We don't usually get an It's a Wonderful Life glimpse.
But last week, I think I did.
I wrote about the girl struggling for life after her suicide attempt. "Attempt" became "success" eventually. It just took way longer and was perhaps way more painful than she had anticipated. It was painful to watch her that last night, about 6 hours before she died. Every breath was a chest heave and sounded like choking for a while. Eventually she calmed down (Did God help? Was it due to prayer?). And it was painful, and yet bittersweet, to watch her father--wiping her brow, she was feverish. His wife dying at home, his daughter dying in hospital. And later, he will be left with neither of them.
Early on I realized, "This is the kind of student we help." Had she been recommended to us just one month earlier, knowing the family financial situation and that her mom is going to die soon, we would have chosen to help her through high school. But we didn't know.
And then I had another thought: we might have known, had I not made the decision I did. About five or six months earlier, in the ongoing attempt to find a way to simplify our processes, and still find the kids that need help, we were discussing what we should do this year to find our 2013 new students. A staff member suggested, instead of going to our regular 4-6 schools, that we simply contact by phone ALL the schools (~17) in the county, have them recommend students. We were going with that for a while, but then I realized it would take way more work--way more conversations explaining ourselves, trips in very differing directions. I decided that we go back to our more usual method. So we didn't call the the junior high school this girl had graduated from. We didn't ask them to recommend poor and needy students. If we had called, would they have chosen her? Would they have told us about her situation? Maybe we would have known, told her we would help. Maybe she would not have gone to that edge, where the only way out she could see was death.
But we didn't. And now she is gone. She's dead. Forever beyond our ability to help. No hope for a brighter future.
And now that she is gone, perhaps I have seen this other alternative, how it might have been for some of our students, or how it might be for some of our students in the future. Oh I don't know how many of our students "might have" attempted suicide. When we talk about suicide, many of our kids say they have thought of it. Maybe they still might attempt, even "under our care." I hope not.
What do I do with this Lord? I can't change "what might have been" and I don't want to wallow in guilt about that decision made just a couple of months ago. I did what I thought was best at that time. But what about for the future? Can I live with things the way they are? I don't want to stay in a world where kids feel there is no hope, there is no one to whom they can turn, there is nowhere they can turn for help. I don't think I should look at every person and think "He'll kill himself, she'll kill herself...if we don't help." And yet neither do I want to forget that this may be the reality for some. So many thoughts, so many possibilities come to mind... Lead me Lord... Lead us Lord...