In light of all the drama and hoopla surrounding Chick-Fil-A and same-sex marriage, a recent status update from a friend of mine of Facebook caught my attention:
“Ugh…where are my trivial friends? You are all WAY to political to make FB at all a satisfying escape tonight,” she wrote.
Considering the fact that the friend who posted this and I have mutual friends or friends with similar values and political stances, I’m sure she was seeing as much political propaganda about Chick-Fil-A, vegetarianism, Mitt Romney vs. Obama, and the like. Breaking stories and important in their own way, no doubt.
But when you learn about something as inspiring and moving as the So Many Roads tour piloted by suicide-awareness devotee Delicia Jernigan, calling things like Chick-Fil-A protests and my recent vacation trivial seems well beyond an understatement. Florida updates would have to wait for so great a cause.
Jernigan and I both grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Nevada and were basketball teammates in high school. She was recognized with medals and awards on state and national levels for her talents on the court; playing with Shaq during the summer was no big for her. She lead our team to numerous NCAA state championships (she is pictured kneeling on the far right) and continued to have success in college ball.
It wasn’t until we became friends on Facebook years after I left our small town that I learned of a recent tragedy in the star’s life, and an even greater cause she had taken on that deserves ten times the recognition and awards she received for basketball. Jernigan had lost her brother to suicide in 2010, and was now a SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) non-profit organization activist. In a “ride to promote life”, Jernigan would take on a grueling cross-country bike tour from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine to raise suicide awareness. This photo featured on her page shows just one amazing day of her trek.
Jernigan’s YouTube video speaks for itself, as does her involvement with numerous suicide awareness events she hosts during her journey, including the Tour de Nick in Minnesota. Like Jernigan, I hope her tour will help others move their focus away from the trivial things in life to causes like Jernigan’s. Jernigan’s website features a memorial wall where you can post stories and help increase suicide awareness. As a basketball coach and teacher, I am no stranger to the pain and loss that comes with losing a loved one to suicide. One of my JV basketball players committed suicide this past year after only having the privilege of one short year to coach and get to know her. She was a beautiful, happy, outgoing, talented young lady who showed no signs of struggling with thoughts of suicide except for a few strange Facebook posts the night before she took her life. I often wonder what more I could have done to help her feel loved and appreciated, as many do when they lose someone to close to them. I find it difficult to imagine losing an immediate family member or someone I knew for much longer, and send out my heartfelt condolences to anyone who has had to experience as much. This tour and organizations like SAVE are proof of what good can still be done to help those in their struggles.
What causes do you feel need more awareness? Do you know someone like Jernigan who you’d like to tell us about? Please feel free to comment with answers or any other causes and awareness programs. Saving even one life could mean everything to many.