That which does not kill us...
05 July 2006, 19:49
by Donna M. Munday

Last week I started volunteering on Saturdays to help out with a literacy programme for inner-city high school students between the ages of 14 and 19 years of age. Each week we work with them for several hours attempting to improve their reading and writing skills. The kids have to keep a journal as a homework assignment and each week we give them a new topic to write about. Their assignment from last Saturday was to write about a time in their lives when adversity had helped to make them a better person.

Saturday morning, when it came time for the kids to volunteer to read their journal entry in front of the class, one of the kids who raised their hand was a 16-year-old girl I will refer to as D. She seems like your typical teenager, though somewhat rough around the edges, but her story left me utterly speechless and completely humbled.

One year ago, when D was 15 years of age, she and her best friend skipped school and went over to her friend’s house to hang out. While they were there, her friend asked her if she wanted to try smoking pot. She agreed and so they smoked for a little while. Then her friend asked her if she wanted to try ecstasy. Again, she agreed to it. Somewhere along the way, however, something went horribly wrong with their plans. Her friend began to wildly hallucinate that there were clowns in the house and that they were chasing her. Terrified, the girl reached underneath the sofa and pulled out a loaded gun and began waving it around, trying to aim it at the clown. Not entirely certain how to react, D watched her friend as she pointed the gun around the room. Finally the girl yelled excitedly I’ve got it, I’ve got it! At that moment, she turned the gun on herself and shot herself in the neck. The bullet passed through and grazed D in the face. Her friend collapsed on top of D, bleeding profusely from the fatal wound. As she lay dying, her final words were “I killed the clown. I killed the clown.”

D sat there, alone, covered in blood, with the body of her friend stretched across her lap on the sofa, for 9 hours until the girl’s mother came home from work. The police were called and D was arrested for the murder of her friend. For 20 days she sat in a jail cell, not speaking or eating or anything. Finally, as she came around, she was able to tell the police the truth about what happened on that tragic day. The evidence supported her story and she was released, but by that time she was far too behind in school and had to be held back a grade, not to mention having to undergo major psychological therapy in order to deal with these events.

As she read her story, I, along with everyone else in the class, sat there listening in disbelief. I could not imagine how on earth something like this could turn out to make her a better person. This was too much. How could anybody deal with this, much less a child?

At the very end though, she looked out at us as a class and said, as though speaking to each of us directly, "What I learned from all of this is that if I don’t pass this class, if I don’t graduate high school and go to college, if I don’t make something out of my life, then I might as well have been killed by the same bullet."

You know, we all have times when life is hard and the challenges that we are dealt seem too great to overcome. We all have days when it feels like there is no way to carry on. But the truth is that which does not kill us makes us stronger. And it makes us braver and wiser, too.

I know now that whenever I start to think that my situation is impossible and that I’ll never get anywhere, I will remember D and the story she shared with me today. I will remember that God delivers messages to us in the strangest and most unexpected ways and that even in the darkest of nights, even past the finality of death, hope is eternal.

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