Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
Many of you may know this quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh. I know these words from my Mom, who repeated them to my brother and me as we were growing up, and continues to remind us now. Although the quote is not new, its message remains important to me now.
Unfortunately, living in Guyana has come with a price. It is accurate to say that if you live here for any reasonable amount of time, you will be witness to the effects of suicide. It’s in the papers daily. You hear about it on social media. You know someone who knows someone that has committed suicide. It’s happening in the village down the road, the next road over, or the house across the street. Until recently, I was aware of the crisis here from a bystanders perspective – appalled by the statistical crisis presented but somewhat removed from the true impact of the problem. Then, on October 26, 2015, Zenita Nicholson died at the hospital after ingesting poison.
I had met Zenita through my work at SASOD, and was immediately drawn to her fearless display of Human Rights activism and welcoming smile. She assisted me in some grant writing and took part in a diversity panel during a Peace Corps staff training. Outside of work, I was also able to see Zenita’s fun side – she was energetic and free. My impressions of her were clear. This woman was brave. This woman was strong. This woman was smart. And for the 2nd time since coming to Guyana, a person who I would have never suspected to take their life, did just that.
When someone you admire, whose mere presence alone impacts you, inspires you to be better, or brings a smile to your face – when someone like that can’t see their way out of the darkness, you feel something….the only word I can find to describe that feeling is fear. It’s scary. It’s scary when brave people appear to cower. It’s scary when strong people appear to collapse. It’s scary when smart people appear to fail. But we can’t be scared, and we can’t live in fear.
Life in Guyana isn’t easy…but the problem isn’t unique or contained to here. Five minutes of any news broadcast will show you that this world is in trouble, with fear driving nearly every message being thrown at us. But there is an answer. Fear can’t persist in the presence of love. Too often we look for solutions to our problems outside of ourselves – pray for this, and pray for that – when in fact we ARE the solution. It’s my belief we were created by a perfect source, and our source is correspondingly perfect. Perfect love. I think prayer can have its place, but don’t just pray – love. There will be times when we don’t feel brave – don’t feel strong – don’t feel smart, and that’s ok. Pray if it helps, but above all else, forgive yourself and love yourself. Through our love we are braver than we believe, and stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.
As we love ourselves, we will be better able to give that love to others, and only then can we shine the light out of the darkness, for ourselves and everyone around us. This is our only obligation. Our only real function. This world is a mirror, and it will give us what we give it. Let’s stop giving fear.
In loving memory of Kristen Higginbotham and Zenita Nicholson