I was sitting in our family room one recent morning when my wife says she just saw something horrible on social media. Apparently, my colleague’s daughter had died. I was hearing the most dreaded words in the English language: someone’s child had died, and his life would be changed forever. Just thinking about it brought me to tears.
She had died of an overdose. She was about to be admitted for a year to a wonderful non–profit program that would hopefully rid her of the cycle of relapse/rehab. She had taken heroin one last time. As her father characterized it: “one for the road.” It had been delivered to her by a “friend.” That is a bastardization of the word, to say the least.
I am thankful every day that my two children have never involved themselves in drugs. Most of us did drugs back in the day. Many of my friends still use marijuana. They love it. Life keeps me too busy to even ponder that. Barely drink wine – only at a dinner with friends.
Drugs were kids’ games compared to what people are doing now. No one we know would ever touch heroin. That was way too far. Now it is commonplace throughout all economic classes and educational levels. It is nuts. That was before knowing that so much of it is laced with fentanyl. Using these drugs now is just out and out crazy. Fortunately, Naloxone (known also as Narcan) can save people’s lives, but are their lives just shallow shells?
We all know there is a serious drug problem in this country with far too many people dying. Life expectancy dropped for the third year in a row in the U.S. Suicides and drug overdoses are driving that. Are the two different? You can say a suicide has clear intent, but people using dangerous drugs must know they are putting a proverbial gun to their heads and hoping the chamber is empty. Sadly, many deaths are in the 25-64 age bracket.
There are lots of things people can point their fingers at to be the cause of this. It is stupid to think these seriously dangerous drugs are recreational. Depression. Indirect addiction to opioids due to legitimate use and need. There are other reasons, most questionable. It all goes back to a feeling of emptiness.
We are not the only affluent society that suffers from a drug problem. We can only try and fix our problem. It is a large enough river to cross.
The thing that gets me is why so many people are depressed. We have the most financially advanced society in history. Even some of the people going into food banks have smart phones. More people have productive jobs than ever before. Technology is making everyone’s life easier. Our citizens who live below the poverty line have better lives than the middle class in Europe. More things.
What it seems is too many people feel empty. Those comforts of having air conditioning, a microwave and a dishwasher do not make life better for everyone. Money can’t buy me love. It is also can’t bring it meaning. That is why survey after survey says Americans in mass numbers feel lonely. Being comfortable by yourself reading a book or eating a meal is good. Lonely is bad and sad.
As a person who believes in God, I tend to believe a large part of this has to do with so many people disconnected from religion. Participation in religion not only brings you to God, but a community. A support system. Belonging to an organized religion brings along not only clergy that can provide you guidance and perhaps solace, but a community that will support you in your hours of need. When my brother passed away or when my wife lost her parents, our clergy and temple were with us throughout. What do you need; how can we help?
If you don’t want to rejoin a religious community then find something where you find a connection. A gun club, a theater club, a book club, a music club, a service club – yes, Lions or Rotary will give you roots. Your kid’s school. Or join Toastmasters. You may never become a great public speaker, but I guarantee you will meet interesting people, make new friends and expand your universe. Or join a group that helps firefighters or policemen or members of the military. Or Dogs or Cats.
The point is DO SOMETHING. Too many people are sitting in their homes watching TV and tweeting out their thoughts into the heartless cyberspace.
It is so, so easy to go home after work, day after day and veg. Why are you here? There is more to life than that. That is how so many people become desperate and sad. It is not like a hundred years ago in America where you could not avoid your neighbors. It is now so easy to not even meet the people in the apartment next to you. Just fire off another text. So impersonal. So lonely.
We can’t be a great country with so many people in despair. The government cannot fix it. Don’t look there. We need to fix it.
Here are some ideas. Don’t walk by people without saying hello. Talk to people in elevators. Do random acts of kindness. Go out of your way to help people. Treat life like it is a Passover Seder – no one is left out; there is always another seat at the table. And for God’s sakes, if someone does not agree with your politics they are not Satan. Listen and be open.
Certainly you can add to this, but you get the point. Otherwise, we are going to waste another Christmas season and go back to our corners or our lonely lives. I can guarantee you no matter what religion you follow or even if you don’t follow one — Jesus would not want it that way.