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Reflections on the dignity of the human person Print
Guest column
Thursday, May. 07, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Morgan Smith

As I drove home from my friend Andrew's funeral, I noticed in myself a deep sadness. This sadness was and is a tension that is related to a huge question: Why?

I was so moved. When I stood in line to enter the church, I was looking at all the faces­­ -- these faces from my past that I now only see at funerals. A sea of shock, dismay, and disbelief.

Andrew committed suicide recently. This was the furthest thing that anyone would have ever expected him to do, and it feels so strange to type those words.

A difficulty mystery

I can still see his face -- his big, wide smile. He was a happy guy -- I swear this was true! This begs the question: "Why did he do it?"

Suicide is such a difficult mystery, because there is always this question, and as I continued driving through downtown, I asked myself this question a few times: "Why?"

I feel so much pain to think of what he must have been suffering all this time. I looked carefully at all of the faces of the people on the street I drove by­ -- looking for someone who felt the way I did. Or searching for that person who might be suffering in silence like he was.

I saw people walking their dog, driving their nice new BMW, cutting the grass -- what does all of that matter? What really matters anyway?

Love is what matters

What matters is ​love​. The only thing that matters is love. For some reason, Andrew didn't feel loved or didn't think he was loved. He just couldn't live with this fact.

I can't help but ask: "Why didn’t he ​know ​he was loved?" He had tons of friends! I want more than anything to show him that he is loved -- and I feel terrible for not having been better at giving him what he needed. How could we have missed his need for dignity?

I think dignity has everything to do with receiving and giving love -- love from God and love from others. So the question becomes: "Am I certain that I am loved?" I have certainty that I am loved -- only because Christ saved my life and I am here today to give and receive His love.

Looking at others

Pope Francis has asked us to go to the peripheries to encounter Christ. To give all that we have received. Sometimes this means turning to the one next to us -- the one we ​think ​we know so well -- and looking at them, really looking.

"How are you, really?" "What can I give you, what do you need?" "I want to know you for who you really are." Sometimes a look is all it takes.

How many people are suffering next to us right now? How will we find them? Do you look at them? Do you really look at the people you see every day? How about those you pass on the street?

Looking at others -- really looking­­ -- is giving dignity in a real and concrete way. We need to be aware of this and live like we have the gaze of Christ -- because we do! Our look, our interest, and our love can save!

Please pray for Andrew, his family, and his friends -- and all of those who are lonely in the midst of a sea of friends.


Morgan Smith is the Natural Family Planning coordinator in the Diocese of Madison.