Dear, Salem Illinois

salem water tower

We live in a cruel world.
I wish it wasn’t so… but it is.

Unfortunately, you know this all too well.
Recent events have shown us all how fragile life is.
Five young people… 18… 19… 14… 17… and 19 years of age… gone.

Each death… a separate cause with a common question…

I wish I knew why.
We all wish we knew why.
But unfortunately none of us will ever know why.
In fact… when we look at all five tragedies… there’s a lot that we don’t know.
But, what we don’t know will drive us crazy.

We can go crazy thinking about what we don’t know…
therefore, we must choose to focus on what we do know.

So… what do we know…

1- We know that we have each other.

It’s one of the many joys of a small town.
We live together… cry together… laugh together… love together.
Without each other… we would focus on what we don’t know… and go crazy.
Today… let’s remind each other that we are here for one another.
Visit someone you love just to tell them that you love them.
Be there… your presence has purpose.

2- We know that we will survive.

I know there are days that it doesn’t feel like it.
There will be days we want to give up.
But we can’t.
Giving up is not an option.

On days that it doesn’t feel like you’ll make it…
get out and do something… for yourself… for someone else…
it doesn’t matter… just be active on those days… you won’t feel like it…
but trust me… when you do… you will feel alive again.

3- We know that we have purpose.

Do me a favor…
close your eyes…
take a deep breath…
and breathe.

There is purpose in your lungs…
and just because we don’t know the purpose of these tragedies…
doesn’t mean we don’t know the purpose of our breath.

Our purpose is to create a future…
a future that makes the world different… better.. and beautiful.
The world is more beautiful with all of us in it… together.

4- We know that today’s suffering is temporary.

In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul said this…
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”

Glory awaits us… if we belong to Jesus… He owns victory…
and He’s gracious enough to share it with us.

If you have questions about that… please… let me know.

5- Finally… we know that there is meaning in all of this.

Take a six minutes… and listen to this song…

Salem, Illinois… Jesus is all we need… He wants us to find meaning in all of this… but through it all… we must find it Him.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says…
This is the reason we do not give up. Our human body is wearing out. But our spirits are getting stronger every day. 17 The little troubles we suffer now for a short time are making us ready for the great things God is going to give us forever. 18 We do not look at the things that can be seen. We look at the things that cannot be seen. The things that can be seen will come to an end. But the things that cannot be seen will last forever.

Your fellow Wildcat.

Dear, Salem Illinois

30 thoughts on “Dear, Salem Illinois

  1. Rhonda says:

    Maybe if parents would be parents and not friends in this town …. Things would change… And for God’s sake STOP the BULLYING… Never in my life have I seen it so bad as I did when we lived in that town…

    1. Rhonda… Thank you for reading and thank you for the comment. The saying is so true… “It takes a village to raise a child.”
      Parents need each other… we all do.

      Bullying is alive and well everywhere… it is very much apart of the cruel world in which we live.

      Remember… “Our purpose is to create a future…
      a future that makes the world different… better.. and beautiful.”

      Let’s all focus on that.

  2. Jesus is all and well but that is not all this community needs… The post only highlights the popular and well liked… There have been many, many more people that have fell a victim to this community. We need somewhere for these teens to turn to get help, not just for their souls but for their safety and well-being.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and thank you for the comment! I believe Jesus is all we need… when we give our lives completely over to Him… everything else is taken care of. That’s what He wants. Does it mean life is perfect? Of course not. I have an awesome youth group that meets on Sunday Nights at 6 PM at The Rock Church in Centralia where we would LOVE to offer these kids hope and somewhere to go to… we’d love to provide that safety and well-being. But they have to want it.

      In this post I am referring to the adolescent deaths of Salem High School students both former and future just in 2015.

      1. A grnadmother says:

        They also have to know where to get that help and transportation to that place. Some children do not have that. We know Jesus is all we need but do the children know this. You are not born all knowing and some are never taught.

      2. Grandmother… Thank you so much for reading and thank you for your comment.

        Your concerns are exactly why I write this blog… well… some of the reason at least. In the day and age of technology and social media I am thankful that it is a tad bit easier to educate. Every week on Sunday’s I am at my church and we do youth group for 6th graders thru 12th graders… not to mention the kids programming that we provide. On every Sunday for our student ministry program we pick kids up in the city of Centralia as that is where my church is. But what I’ve learned is we can provide all the education we can but at the end of the day it has to take place at home. Kids need parents to lead them.

  3. Kathy Gibson says:

    Thank you for this blog. I no longer live in Salem, but was raised there and attended school there. I love my little hometown. At times I miss living there, but at the same time have grown accustomed to living in bigger places. I never, not once, experienced bullying while I lived and attended school there. I wish at times I had stayed to raise my children there with so many wonderful, caring people in that town. I pray that everyone keeps being there for each other and that the healing begins.

      1. So ILL of So. Ill says:

        You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m a saved believer but Faith in Jesus does not remove the factors that lead to suicide and the rest. These awful sinkholes that pass for towns around here are the problem. We have zero funding for anything, we get the worst of the worst of every professional in the US, doctors especially. Because let’s face it, who wants to come to a place like this when there are actual cities with culture and population and more options to go out than one damn walmart and some gas stations? It’s fine to push for whatever religion you think will help but what suggestions can you offer that have a real-world application? A person in life-altering mental or physical pain that can’t get help from ANY doctor around here is supposed to do what? Pray another 10 times a day? Prayer helps your expectations more than anything. It’s not going to magically cure a deep chemical imbalance in the brain or mend ruined bone in someone’s leg. Only decent doctors can do that, albeit guided by God’s hand. We simply don’t have anything in So.(makes me) ILL to bring professionals of any repute or of a high enough caliber to help when it’s so badly needed and the current doctors and medical centers around here will do absolutely nothing and often times even make things much worse. I speak from experience as my leg was ruined for life by a butchery of a surgery at the age of 17 by a Salem/Centralia doctor who’s now the Head of Surgery at St. Mary’s in Centralia. It’s been over 6 years and I’ve been in constant misery every hour of every day and thanks to the kind of people around these towns that do nothing but drink and pop and sell can’t even GET adequate relief to make life worth living. Something TANGIBLE needs to be done soon or you’ll be adding a 23 year old to the list who has held on longer than anyone should have to just barely get by each day.

      2. So ILL… First and foremost… I am terribly terribly sorry for the pain that you have spoken of. I’d love to be your friend… email me… I’d love to buy you a coffee… or lunch someday. People need people because people are tangible.

        Thank you for reading. Thank you for your time to comment. Thank you for your honesty.

        Once again… I do not write this post to provide answers to every problem Salem, Illinois faces… I wrote it to hopefully provide a sense of relief for the pain a community feels. Nothing will ever bring these kids back… and for that we hurt. I know in my personal life when I have experienced the deepest sense of pain the one thing that helped was my relationship with Jesus… again… not to push Him on anyone… that’s not loving. Because He has helped me so much… it’s my desire to encourage others to discover the breath that He provides… His breath has the ability to revive… that’s what I believe we need.

        I look forward to receiving that email… just remember… your presence matters.

        Here is a a link to a list of resource to help you out further.

  4. Brett says:

    So sad kids are bullied all the time something should be done about it ny cousin is one of the five gone due to the since less act of bullying

    1. Brett… First and foremost… I am so very sorry for the loss of your cousin. Nothing I say or do could ever replace him or her. We are here if you ever need anything.

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for reading. I pray that it has brought some sort of soothing to your pain. We continue to invest in these kids one by one to teach them to love one another. We pray that God rewards our efforts and eliminates bullying once and for all.

  5. Tammy says:

    I was bullied relentlessly when I attended Raccoon Elementary School in the mid-80’s and I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Salem because of that. The teachers back then either ignored it (most) or joined in.
    The same people who bullied me back then now go on Facebook posting anti-bullying articles as though they never did the same or worse to others when they were children.
    Maybe bullying is the generational sin that the entire town of Salem needs to repent from.

  6. Stacey Kershaw says:

    Parents that are mourning certainly don’t need to hear anything about their parenting skills at the moment. If it were me, I would already be playing the what if game in my head.
    To the parents that lost their children, I am so very sorry. God be with you and comfort you in your time of sorrow.

  7. While I appreciate the heartfelt feelings of loss and suffering you bestow in your blog, I think you need to look past your narrow approach of fixing the answer. This town has upwards of 30 churches in this town and some of them actually worship God not just Jesus. These churches have been around along time and have professed their helping hands in finding salvation to the inner turmoil that plagues the youth of this town. What these kids need is a change in attitude of the people who run this town. This town is thought more of a retirement community than a place where kids can thrive. This town is overran by the ministerial alliance who’s sole purpose is to keep this town in there image even though there should be a separation of church and state. This town is made weaker because people do not understand that kids are so bored and bullied that they are turning to things such as K2, drugs, pills, fight clubs, and other nefarious activities.

    This town has so much potential. This town needs more jobs. This town needs more parents to step up and take an active role in their lives. This town needs parents to let the teachers do their jobs instead of blaming teachers for their kids laziness, lack of interest in school, and attitudes. Kids know they can get away with anything because the parents will back them. Back the teachers, make your kids make education their number one priority.

    Parents listen to your kids who tell you that they are being bullied. Take an active interest in their life. Your number one job as a parent is to make that child the best adult they can be. That means you have to teach them responsibility. Teach them honesty. Teach them right from wrong. Hold their feet to the fire if they mess up. Teach them and yes even instill faith as a part of their life.

    To the people running this great town of Salem, make it your mission to provide a want for these kids to stay in this community. Get in touch with the youth. I know it’s hard to talk to young kids. I know they can’t vote yet. Who cares? They are the future of this town and if you make this community a community where people want to stay, then you change this town for the better. Kids can not wait to leave this town. They don’t have a voice with you because you haven’t listened. If these tragedies continue to happen, remember it’s on your watch. That tells me more about how much you care about this community than anything else you do.

    1. Ken, Thank you so much for reading. And thank you for your lengthy response. I greatly appreciate it. What I appreciate the most is your desire for solutions in your comment.

      We all know that our small town isn’t perfect… no town is… it’s apart of the cruel world we live in. Today’s blog post was not about all the problems plaguing our town… nor was it about providing solutions… The one exception was my suggestion to try to find Jesus in all of this. That’s because He is where I turn when I’m experiencing pain… I would never force Him on anyone nor would He force Himself on anyone. That’s not what love does. However love has a desire to provide soothing for the pain in our lives. That is the purpose of this post today. Maybe some day I’ll write about all the answers for Salem, Illinois… but right now we need to heal… we need to love… and we need to live.

      I pray that my words today have helped us do those things.

  8. Dawn says:

    What an awesome song. Can you tell me who sings it. I am not from Salem but from Centralia and have been praying for Salem and the famlies of these young people. This is an awesome blog.

  9. Dora Duncan says:

    My son died by suicide 5 years ago. As a parent who has been there. I would like to give my condolences to the families of these young boys.
    1. The stigma behind mental health is horrible! Our children need to know that’s it’s ok not to be ok. Please talk with your child. There’s many different reasons why someone takes their own lives. Please don’t let your child be too ashamed to ask for help.
    2. Every time someone dies by suicide 10 other people are effective. The pain left behind is beyond measure.
    3. As a parent, I suffer everyday. It is not temporary! It will last till I take my last breath. The pain will always be there. But you will learn to deal and cope with this loss.
    4. Our children are suffering and many parents may think that oh, it’s a stage their going thu. It won’t last long. Believe me when I say that this tragedy can happen to your family. Talk to your children. Get them help now!!
    5. Signs: depression that last longer than a couple of weeks. Anger, are they just angry about everything? Could be the simplest of things that trigger it?? Drugs ?? Drugs can can make you feel helpless, depressed, worthless and ashamed.
    6. PLEASE talk to your loved one. They may not be here tomorrow.

    1. Dora… First… I am terribly sorry for your loss. No words could ever make sense of the pain you have felt for five years. We’re here if you ever need anything. Feel free to email me anytime.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement and experience. We are very grateful for you. I pray that the words contained in this post have brought you some sense of soothing to your pain… knowing very well that they could never cure it. Thank you for reading.

  10. Rhonda Young says:

    My heart aches for all that this evil has touched. I lived in Salem until the 5th grade, and there is bullying everywhere, certainly no more in Salem than anywhere else. Salem is a lovely little town with wonderful people, embrace them.

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