Blog

Mar17
2014

When “Someone Else” Becomes “Someone You Love”

By Rich Hefty

Like many of you reading this, I stumbled across TWLOHA several years ago, at first due to the coolness of their T-shirts and close association with some of my favorite bands. A quick search on the web led me to its origin story, and Jamie’s contagious love for a friend resonated with me in a way that was sadly unfamiliar. I had friends, even best friends, but I didn’t grasp the selflessness that shaped those words. From that first read, I sensed the deep importance of what TWLOHA was doing, even if I didn’t understand it on a personal level. Yet.

Around the same time, my wife and I were going through the process of becoming foster parents. As we learned about all that some children struggle through, the lens I used to view the world around me developed a noticeable crack. I wasn’t so insulated that I could deny there was sadness and pain in the world. I was even willing to admit that this darkness could be found in communities around me. The problem was that I always looked at that cloud as being someone else’s problem. As long as my family was cared for, I was doing my job, right? If my family could avoid the pain, I felt I was doing something worthwhile. That was my lens.

It cracked the minute that “someone else’s problem” became my family.
It shattered the moment I first held my foster son.
“Someone else” became “someone I love.”

For the next several years, my wife and I poured our lives into learning about the incredible challenges that foster children face, and we became vocal advocates for children in the foster care system. Our family was incredibly blessed to be part of the lives of several children who had been deeply wounded, yet still possessed incredible potential for love. We learned that the situations facing foster children could lead them to experience depression, PTSD, addiction, and even suicidal thoughts at an alarming rate. While my family and I couldn’t completely heal these children on our own, we began to understand their cries and desperation. TWLOHA’s message began to sing a little louder. I hummed along, not realizing that the song would soon be louder than I already thought possible.

Last spring I received a text from my parents that we needed to talk and it was urgent. Existing plans were cancelled, phone calls were made, and my parents let my brothers and me know that our teenage sister had been quietly struggling with depression, and it had reached the point that self-harm was involved. I was blindsided. Someone I love was now battling the things I thought only happened in “someone else’s family.” Depression and self-harm were topics I’d only heard when strangers shared their stories. This was all too real. The hardest part was that none of us knew how to help her find a path through the pain. I had majored in psychology in college, but reading case studies is one thing. Sitting across from my little sister and seeing the shadows of fear and helplessness cloud her beautiful blue eyes was something gut-wrenchingly different. She seemed lost, and her compass was spinning like a top. Those of us closest to her realized we had always taken True North for granted, but had never needed to point anyone toward it.

But in our helplessness, we found an unexpected truth: Love doesn’t always know the way out of the dark. Sometimes love means holding tightly to each other and looking for the light together.   

Through these experiences, I’ve come to a realization that is critical to making a difference: the people who cross our paths aren’t there by accident. They’re part of our story, and we’re part of theirs. Whether they’re complete strangers or close family members, every day affords us the opportunity to see them as so much more than just “someone else.” We have the chance to let them know they matter, that they are loved. This is a beautifully terrifying opportunity. You see, if it’s just “someone else” struggling with heavy issues like depression and addiction, you have the option to look away. When it’s someone you choose to love, you’re forced to respond.

Love demands action.
Love makes the difference.

I don’t know what will make missions like TWLOHA’s move from your head to your heart.
All I know is how it happened for me.
It got personal.

Some of those who hold a piece of my heart are hurting. Struggling. Searching.
I don’t have all the answers. I never will.
What I do know is that I want to add my voice to the choir of hope begging them not to give up.
They may already bear the scars of the fight.
I am one of those who holds a pen, looking for one more chance to write love.

Leave a Reply

Comments (34)

  1. Terrah C

    This is such a great reminder of roots of TWLOHA’s movement. It’s why I fell in love with the organization in the first place; showing love to hurting people makes a world of a difference and may even save a life. Thank you for this post, Rich.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      I’m glad that you felt the same things I did, Terrah. I’m so grateful to everyone at TWLOHA (and all those who support their mission) for providing resources and a voice to those who are hurting AND to those trying to help the hurting. You’re exactly right…showing that love makes a world of difference!

      Reply  |  
  2. Annalisa Jackson

    So beautiful. It is never as far away as we, in our comfort of ignorance, choose to believe. Your sister is lucky to have you in her life x

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      You said it perfectly: “our comfort of ignorance”. I hope to never rest in that kind of comfort again. The price is too high. As for my sister, she’s teaching me far more about bravery & strength than I could ever learn otherwise. I think that makes me the lucky one. Thank you for the kinds words, Annalisa!

      Reply  |  
  3. alyssa

    Beautiful. ♡

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Thank you, Alyssa!

      Reply  |  
  4. Karen @TheMissingNiche

    “the people who cross our paths aren’t there by accident.” This statement is so unbelievably true. My kids hear it from me in a different manner, they are always asking why I am so nice to everyone. I tell them that we don’t know what anyone’s life is like and if that few minutes they spend with me being nice to them is the best part of their entire day, then that means they ran into us for a reason. I don’t think they quite get it yet, but they will. Best wishes to your family and sister, it’s a difficult road but she is lucky to have so much love and support.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Your kids are incredibly blessed to be learning how to see life from your perspective. You’re exactly right, they may not “get it” yet…but they will. And when they do, helping those in need will be the most natural thing in the world. That’s how lasting change takes place. That’s an incredible legacy to leave! Thank you for the best wishes and kind words!

      Reply  |  
  5. Ali

    I can relate to cutting and depression but I wasn’t a foster child. I was born into a family and raised in a good home. But, I hid my inner turmoil so well with a smile and a contagious laugh and my parents and older siblings and friends didn’t know my deepest darkest secret.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Ali, your story sounds very much like my family’s story. Sometimes the struggle is hardest to see when it’s surrounded by so much “good”…but that doesn’t make it any less real. I hope that your family & friends have been able to help you see that your turmoil doesn’t need to stay hidden. I’m so thankful for organizations like TWLOHA that let us know it’s ok to struggle–but you don’t have to do it alone.

      Reply  |  
  6. Shana

    I’ve been lost. It was the people around me who held me in the darkness, who lit a match and held that tiny flame up to help me take one step forward. It will never be NOT personal to me. It will never NOT be personal to you again.
    Thank you for loving.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      So glad you had those people around you to walk with you & show you the way–and that you had the courage to take those steps. You’re right about it never NOT being personal again. I think that part is important for all of us to hold onto.

      Reply  |  
  7. Sara Zimmerman

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts in this beautifully written blog. I can’t get the line about “people who cross our paths aren’t there by accident” out of my head. There is something so terrifying yet so humbling to take a step back and look at all of the levels of relationships we have the privilege of being in. Maybe everything happens for a reason and maybe not, but I think you hit the nail right on the head with this.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Hindsight definitely puts this issue in perspective, doesn’t it Sara? I’m glad that line struck a chord with you…it’s something I have to remind myself every single day.

      Reply  |  
  8. Anonymous

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!♥♥♥

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      You’re very kind…thank you for taking the time to read and the extra time to comment!

      Reply  |  
  9. Renee

    thank you for this…

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      You’re most welcome, Renee. Thank YOU for reading!

      Reply  |  
  10. Rebecca Sloan

    fighting with love and compassion to because love is action, it’s not giving up, you give it all you got, fight cause they have a voice a name.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Rebecca, your comment reminds me of one of my favorite Switchfoot songs “Love Alone is Worth the Fight”. That song has served as a soundtrack to daily life as we find the way forward. I love the last line you wrote “…fight cause they have a voice, a name.” That captures it perfectly…everyone is someone worth knowing. And worth fighting for. Thank you for sharing that!

      Reply  |  
  11. Allen Smith

    “Love doesn’t always know the way out of the dark. Sometimes love means holding tightly to each other and looking for the light together.” Man I’ve never heard it put like this before. This entire story is amazing dude! Proud to serve with you brother

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Allen! So glad you connected with this! Thanks for setting an example of doing exactly what this story talks about-spending your time loving other people right where they are. Serving alongside you is a privilege for sure!

      Reply  |  
  12. Amy T

    Love these words, and your family. Proud to be your friends.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Hey there, Amy T! So glad you found your way to this post. You & your family are some of the best I’ve ever seen when it comes to loving others unconditionally. Thank you for making love an action word.

      Reply  |  
  13. Gracie D.

    This was an amazing piece. I admire how well done you writ this. It shows people that this can happen to anyone, even when you think, “this can’t possible happen to my family”, it can. That’s why my mom thought when she found out I was dealing with depression and self-injury. I am glad your family has such an amazing man like yourself to be so understanding of this cause. I truly inspire you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Thank you for being so kind, Gracie. I’m glad that you’re taking the same steps to get your challenges out in the open & talk about them with those who love you most. That’s so important! I love the fact that as you work your way through all the tough times, your story is going to help people struggling with the same things–THAT is inspiring!

      Reply  |  
  14. Wren Murfree

    Thank you so much for sharing that. I hope someday your sister will be able to tell her story.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      Hi Wren…thanks for taking the time to read. I hope the same thing for my sister. I know how amazing she is, and I’m excited to think about the fact that she will be able to share her story to help others one day. Thank you for joining me in that hope!

      Reply  |  
  15. Sierra H.

    It became personal when I dealt with self harm, but not until my foster-sister took her life in September did I realize that my actions and choices had a deep impact on those who loved me, including my foster-mom. It’s interesting to have this mirrored from a different perspective. Rich, thank you for your lovely post and for your loving acceptance of your sister.

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Sierra. I hope & pray that your family will find healing as time goes by holding onto the good memories. I’m glad that through this blog entry you’ve been able to see that even though things can feel lonely in the dark, none of us are really alone. All we have to do is reach out & we’ll find those closest to us doing the same.

      Reply  |  
  16. Pam S.

    I have to believe there was something that brought me to this site today, and your blog post. It is beautiful. My husband and I were foster parents and are now adoptive parents. And we got “the call” one day from family about my brother, but he was dead. Horrific and unfathomable, we stumbled to figure out why. And I guess I’m not sure why I am here today reading this specific post, but I have to believe in love, and hope for better tomorrow’s. And teaching our next generation that there is a different way to express and heal our common wounds. Much love to you and your family. How I wish I could turn back time. xoxo

    Reply  |  
    1. Rich H.

      “Hope for better tomorrows” is exactly what we all can hold onto. I’m sorry to hear about the pain that your family has experienced, Pam. While I can relate to the ups & downs of being a foster and adoptive parent, I can only express my sympathy for the loss of your brother. You captured the silver lining of hope when you said that maybe the best we can do is teach our next generation a better way to heal the common wounds. I have to believe that helping those who come after us is the very best way to give purpose to the pain and meaning to the memories. Prayers & blessings to your family as you work together to make each tomorrow better than the last.

      Reply  |  
  17. Anonymous

    thankyou

    Reply  |  
  18. Rich H.

    You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading!

    Reply  |  
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