What if caring for others doesn’t work out?
A mentor once said to me, “We never live long enough to see the result of our effect on others.” I remember feeling frustrated when I first heard that, but, of course, he knew what he was talking about.
Recently, at one of our youth leadership workshops, the topic of loss came up – specifically, losing a loved one to violence. A few shared their experiences, and I recounted the story of my friend, Sebastian, a friend of mine from kindergarten.
Sebastian always stuck up for the underdog, and even came to my aid a few times when I would have otherwise met my demise on the playground from some bigger kid. He’d come over to the house on the weekends from time to time and we’d play outside…you know, how us kids that grew up in the 80s did. We’d play basketball at the school across the street, each getting into a random fight here and there, but it was always in good fun. After elementary school, we grew apart, and it wasn’t until years later, while I was on break from recording school, that we reconnected.
I was walking down Greenville Ave with some friends, and out of nowhere, ran into another good friend from elementary school (he’s now a Board Member). I had a recording project coming up at school, and just like that, my friends were in route from Dallas to Phoenix to record a song. It was a pivotal moment in my life – old friends and new friends, in the studio, making music. One of the best experiences of my life…2001. Time flew by, and when my friends went back home, I stayed in touch with them, and sent beats back and forth with them.
One day, at the beginning of 2002, I got a call from my dad. His voice was shaking. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Mijito, they found Sebastian’s body. We need to make arrangements for you to come home.” I don’t quite remember the rest of the night, as I searched for anything that would suppress my anger and sorrow. I went to a friend’s apartment, wept for hours, and played Sebastian’s music over and over. The next day, I flew to Dallas, carried my friend’s casket to his gravesite with some others, and we laid him to rest. The ensuing years were a combination of trying to make sense of everything, trying to drag myself out of depression, and doing my best to talk other friends out of committing suicide.
I shared this story with the other young adults in this workshop, one, to demonstrate our commonality in feeling when we lose someone, and two, to explore the very natural reactions we have when confronted with various aspects of reality. We all agreed that, no matter what type of life a person led that we loved and cared for, losing them was always going to hurt.
Soon after discussing loss, the topics of politics and racism came up. In the discussion, it was suggested that divisive politicians simply be eliminated. Some students laughed, others seemed mortified. It was clear some wanted to move on from that aspect of the discussion, but I wanted to focus on the motivation for that comment. So I asked him, “How would that solve the situation?” Steadfast, he said something to the effect of, “Because that would make that issue go away.” So I said to him, “You recall the discussion we just had about losing someone close to us, right?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “So, if someone felt negatively about someone you cared about – maybe a family member – and they thought it was alright to solve the problem by simply eliminating them, would you be alright with that?” He said, reluctantly, “I guess not.” And then we returned to explore the feelings of anger and sadness, so that we might better understand how to minimize perpetuating those feelings with others.
In the photo above (Sebastian is on the far right), we’ve lost two of those friends to violence. For years, I tormented myself for…not being there for them, not being able to “save” them, not saying the right thing at the right time, and not being a good enough friend. It took an incredibly long time to understand…I…we…are not in the business of saving people. Whatever salvation is needed for the individual…comes from the Higher Power within that individual. We are in the business of doing our best to lift others up exactly where they are. As I look back on my life, SO many people come to mind that shined light on me in places I couldn’t see, or brought out from me things I didn’t know I was capable of. That is the spirit, the seed, from which our efforts grow.
In the short time I’ve spent working with Nashville youth in the capacity of our nonprofit, I’ve come across remarkable minds from all walks of life. Some steady, some traumatized, some nervous or fearful, but all with a burning fire…to have an impact in some way or another, on the community and world around them…and we need your help.
Earlier this summer, you met the 2017 scholarship recipients. This weekend, I and eight teammates, who have trained with me, offered counsel to me, motivated me, and dedicated time, sweat, and a few injuries here and there, will be running in the Nashville Tough Mudder 5k. 100% of your donations will help provide higher education scholarships to students like the ones from the stories above. Your contribution, no matter the size, WILL have a positive impact on young minds.
Maybe my mentor is right…maybe we won’t live to see the result of our work with others. It’s always a risk…caring for, and investing in others…what if it doesn’t work out? Ah…but what if it does.
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