I don’t receive a lot of feedback on our benevolence ministry clients. Some clients we help over a period of months, and some come only come one time. My view of the person or family who is looking for assistance is a brief moment in time. It is great when one of the people we helped comes back to tell us of their success in finding a job or the improvement in their health. We get to keep up with some of these clients if they return for more help – food, clothing, rent, utilities, or medications.
A couple of weeks ago, a young man came in needing a place to stay while he awaited word on a possible job in the Denton area. He had been jobless for quite some time and had a glimmer of hope for work – not a promise of work, just an opportunity to follow up on a good lead. Due to this hopeful job situation, I put the young man up for a week in a local motel. We gave him some food and wished him success in this job search opportunity.
An older man who was staying in the same motel came in looking for assistance. He asked me if I knew that the young man we put up in a motel last week had been found dead in his room. He had committed suicide. In fact this man assisted with the body when he was found by motel employees.
This has really haunted me since learning of this tragedy. The first thing I thought of was, “Did I do enough to address this young man’s needs?” Why didn’t I better recognize his depressed state?
The major cause of suicide is depression. Over 30,000 people take their own lives in the U.S. each year. It is the 8th leading cause of male deaths and 16th cause of female deaths annually in the U.S. Men 20 -24 years of age commit suicide 10 times more than women their same age. The rate of suicide has gradually increased each year using the year 2000 as a benchmark.
Few of us are trained to spot problems with people who are suicide prone. Depression is probably the easiest thing to observe among people we know – especially family members and close friends.
We have a real challenge in how to deal with the people who come to us for help. No one is happy that is seeking assistance. Most likely, they have been without a job for quite some time. Usually they have no support groups (like family) who may help them though the tough times they are experiencing. Most are hoping we are able to answer their every need for assistance. Obviously, we have monetary limitations and have chosen ways we can offer benevolence and the amount of assistance we are able to offer. The late brother George Dulaney told me, “Don, folks will come in expecting you to solve all their problems. There is no way you can do this. If you can just make the person who needed help feel better when they leave compared to when they came in, then you’ve done your job.” I think about this advice quite often and wonder if I did my best?
I just wish I had recognized the 30+ year-old young man’s depression. Perhaps something could have been said that would have encouraged him to keep on trying. Most of the people who come to us need a place to unload the story that has built up within them. Taking time to listen is the major thing needed when people come in for help.
Pray for me that I’ll grow in wisdom and be able to do a better job of offering a hopeful and an encouraging spirit to people who are just barely hanging on. There has been a group of men recruited to help with client interviews when the food pantry is opened from 3:00-5:00 pm. This should be a big help and improve the quality of personal time we are able to spend with each person.