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This past weekend I had the humbling opportunity to attend and speak at an inspirational and touching "Out of Darkness" community walk at Pleasant Grove High School. What a beautiful facility and what a beautiful day, all for a beautiful purpose. A huge congratulations to the many, many volunteers who worked tirelessly to make it happen.
It was a moving experience to see so many who came to honor the memory of those who decided to take their own lives. All across the United States, teams of volunteers give of their time and resources to organize these walks to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention as well as fund-raise for educational and supportive efforts to prevent more lose. As the AFSP's website states:
"In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes, claiming more than 38,000 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with close to one million people attempting suicide annually. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults 18-65, the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and individuals ages 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicide deaths. This is a public health issue that does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status."
It was an amazing opportunity for me to participate because of all the wonderful people I met, but also because this is a subject that hits so very close to him since it was only years ago that I almost took my own life. Below is a copy of the speech that I gave to the event's attendees that I hope can inspire and comfort you in your own tough times. Don't give up. There is always hope.
Several years ago I went backpacking with a group down to Paria Canyon in Southern Utah. Located within the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area, this beautiful 50-mile hike was a breathtaking adventure in some of God's greatest creations. With stunning sandstone "sculptures" molded by wind and water and overwhelming 300-400 foot tall cliff walls, this trip was where I fell in love with Southern Utah.
During this trip we would sleep out under the stars and I remember one night gazing up into the cosmos and trying to count the infinite number of bright lights that hung in the night sky. The air was so clear down there that I felt as though I could raise up my hand and touch the stars.
Touching the stars. Not many of us try to do that anymore. As kids we all had these marvelous dreams and hopes for the future, but somewhere along the way we start to lose that magic, that special spark of "anything is possible". Reality sets in and imagination goes out the window. No wonder so many people in this world are bored, sad, lonely and discouraged! You can see it in their eyes; they've stopped dreaming.
They've stopped reaching for the stars.