Lives are lost when we mind our business

Brenda, 33, will be laid to rest tomorrow. Her husband, 38, lies on a hospital bed fighting for his life. They both took poison because they felt too beaten down to go on living.

At the wake, friends, relatives and neighbors are seated in little groups speaking mournfully amongst themselves saying that they suspected something was wrong. None of them can say for sure what finally pushed the couple off the cliff because no one asked.

Everyone kept quiet when the couple opened and then closed a general merchandise shop. Nobody asked questions when the friendly couple completely disappeared from the social scene and stopped attending parties or having people over.

Nobody asked questions when the couple was so swallowed up by debt that they had to move out of their home. Now people are making generous benevolent contributions towards the funeral rite expenses.

A life has been lost because everyone minded their business. Many lives are lost when we are too self-absorbed to show concern for other people.

We are a generation of people who don’t probe. When we notice a change in someone, we make comments but only in passing. “Eh. You are lost.” “You have lost weight.” “I no longer see you at church.” “You’ve changed. You no longer laugh so much.”

We leave our friends and relatives with no support system because supporting people requires sacrifice and that’s no fun. We hang them out to dry and take a “not-my-circus-not-my-monkey” approach to our relationships with people. If they are in abusive relationships, if they lose their jobs, we sympathise with words and then soon forget them and move on.

We want to have fun so friendships are now mostly about birthday parties, weddings, baby showers and other numerous kinds of showers. If a friend can no longer afford to do these things, their lives are of no interest to us.

There are people who try to exonerate themselves after a tragedy by saying “but she didn’t ask for help.” But friendship is about being proactive, rather than being reactive. It’s about saying something or doing something when you see something instead of crossing your arms and observing from a distance until you’re called upon. Some people don’t know how to ask for help.

When you take the unspoken pledge of friendship, your friend’s life becomes your circus, your friend becomes your monkey. When someone is in your life, you must be willing to cross boundaries, to ask questions, to get involved, to speak up if something is wrong.

I cannot count the number of times my mother’s invasion of my privacy saved me from making stupid decisions that would have resulted in eternal scars.

Studies show that people are more likely to feel suicidal if they feel lonely because they are more likely to be overwhelmed by fear, worry or sadness. In other words, often times a strong support system is the difference between life and death.

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