If you walked by the Memorial Student Center at any time last week, you may have noticed a large, four-sided, black chalk wall. The tops of each side invite students to share their struggles, how they cope and what makes them smile.
The wall was put up by Active Minds, as a part of the students’ capstone project. They were unsure whether or not there would even be a response to the wall’s unfinished statements, as they undoubtedly carry a bit of baggage. However, within one day the wall had been completely covered with answers. Many of these answers included mentions of drinking, anxiety, anger and regret, and lighter topics like family, friends, prayer and music.
It is a trendy wave for politicians and organizations to talk about mental health, as it rightfully should be. The National Institute of Mental Health says that 31% of Americans will experience any kind of anxiety alone in their lifetime, and suicide continues to claim more lives of young people every year. And even with our highly connected society, more and more we seem to miss true human connection the most, something that our devices can’t necessarily provide.
Human connection is more than knowing people, it is actively engaging in the acknowledgment of the struggles, dreams and triumphs of the person walking by you on the sidewalk, taking your order or sitting across from you. We couldn’t imagine ourselves without these things; it seems easy to discount these in others during the day-to-day.
How can we expect to know how our friends are really doing if we don’t ask them? And how can we expect them to answer honestly if they don’t feel that empathy will be returned their way? Are we too worried about being “canceled” to honestly admit to our mistakes? Is keeping our image up more important than finding help?
I believe these are questions that trace back to a culture built on clout and image, not authenticity. I worry about the future of our culture and the impact it will have on young people now, and for generations to come. Our current society asks us to be vulnerable with our struggles and to talk to someone, yet more frequently mistakes seem to be met with being canceled, rather than help.
Let’s create a different culture here at Marshall. Where struggles are spoken about honestly, where mistakes are met with forgiveness, and kindness is second nature.
If we are all Sons and Daughters of Marshall, that also means we are all brothers and sisters of Marshall too. Let’s look up and seek one another out with kindness and genuine care.
Tyler Spence can be contacted at [email protected]