Gone too soon.

There is a lot of poverty in the world. I often talk about it, about how people should have enough money for basic needs, about offering dignity to those who are marginalized and vulnerable. I talk about equality, and justice, and being our brother’s keeper. These are things I believe in. We are all feeling the pains of poor economic times. We are facing job loss, higher costs, cutbacks to things we have taken for granted. We worry a lot. Mothers skip meals so their kids can eat, men try to find work with rotting teeth and a tent for a home, families struggle to pay for childcare so they can work for wages well below the poverty line. Addictions are overtaking our society at warped speed.

In the scheme of things, all of this is worrisome and should take a front seat to our concerns as a society. Having said that, let’s not forget what is most important of all. Loving one another. Saying what we should say before it is too late. Appreciating what we have. Comforting those who are lost and who are broken. Celebrating our youth and remembering there are a lot of great young people in our world. Thanking our lucky stars that the kids many of us struggle to support are at least at home with us every night.

Too many young people have died in our community in the past couple of months. One is too many. We are all shocked, saddened, we wonder how it happened, why it happened, and who’s to blame. Eventually, life goes on for most of us.

There is just cause, however, to remember that the young people who are no longer with us are much more than just one person. They are grandsons, nephews, big brothers, little brothers, students, employees, boyfriends, sons, and young men who will never be fathers themselves. With them a generation is lost. To many more people they were the kid who everyone got along with, the guy you could always count on to be there for you and made you feel good about yourself. The class comedian. The talented musician. The star athlete. The quiet helper. They were a best friend. To their co-workers, they were the youngest one on the crew, the one to tease and joke around with, the one with the goofy grin, the kid who would do anything that was asked of him. To a special few they were a role model, a confidante, a protector, someone to wrestle with, someone to wait up for, someone who gave rides in a cool car, someone to cheer you on at hockey game.They were and will always be all these things to a lot of people. They will be the one we tell others in our lives “I wish you could have known him.”

A lot of people are hurting right now and will never quite be the same. These people are vulnerable. They need our help.

Every now and then we will continue to hear of tragic losses and it hits us hardest when these are young people who have not had time to live yet. But they have lived, and stories like this don’t just happen to other families. They can happen to anyone. The golden rule comes in to play. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

At the end of the day, you or people you know of or hear about may not have enough to eat, may not have the right clothes, a furnished home, a home at all. But their hearts are beating. They will wake up tomorrow morning to start a new day with new possibilities. We can hope they have friends, family, and people who care about them. We must hope that they have their community. That spirit is often the difference between isolation and despair, or hope and recovery. We need to pay attention to that and not let all the other things that can be fixed, overshadow other things that cannot be fixed once it is too late.

Hug your children and tell them you love them. Then fix something by making a difference in the life of someone else.

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