The common denominator: Dedicated to Ken, who never knew the whys

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune

ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune

When a situation recurs over and over again and one is left to wonder why, it only makes sense to look for the common denominator that is present in all the cases to see what might be causing the constant repetitive outcome. For example, if a child is having trouble with his grades in school while all his teachers believe he has great potential, what might be the cause? Is it the teachers’ fault that he could not get passing grades? Is it the parents’ fault that he never turned in any homework? Or might it be the child’s fault, that he never studied and never did any homework since he is the common denominator personally involved in failing and falling behind in class?
And so it goes. A man continually gets fired from all the jobs he gets and wants to blame his coworkers, his supervisors, the time he has to get up to go to work, and the way his wife talks to him in the morning. It couldn’t possibly be that he is always late, makes his coworkers end up with more work because he never finishes what he was supposed to do, argues with his supervisors to make his point, and starts the day by blaming his wife for not making him a good hearty breakfast.
And what about the woman who can’t imagine why she can’t find a man who wants to make a commitment to her, but never asks her out more than a handful of times, if even that many? It couldn’t possibly be that she uses her outside voice when in a restaurant, wears enough perfume to make others move away from her, even out in public;
constantly talks about the men in her life who almost asked her to marry them, or talks nonstop when it’s obvious the man needs a little break from her nonsensical small talk?
So what does all that have to do with this week’s column? Many people might think that anytime there is a death, it’s an occasion for just sadness and mourning. And if it was a self-induced death, maybe it’s even an occasion for a lot more sadness, perhaps mixed with a lot of pity and regret. If anyone dared to find the common denominator behind
the reason for the suicide, perhaps they would be seen as heartless and unfeeling and lacking in compassion.
Over the years, starting from when I was a teenager, I have personally known more than eight people who either took their own life, talked about it, or attempted it. Maybe some of our readers have even considered it. I know that when a person has such a thought, it might seem like a good idea at the time, or at least the best idea they can
come up with under their circumstances. But given a better idea, one that would allow them to live, no doubt every single one of them would have chosen that.
The mindset that allows suicide into it often has a mixture of ingredients that could include sadness, loneliness, financial troubles, homelessness, a broken heart, anger and frustration, hopelessness and despair, shame and guilt, or even the feeling that no one would care if you did it, since you believe there is no one in the whole world who cares about you in any way. There may be any number of other reasons, but the common denominator for all and any reasons for a person to have that mindset is the person himself.
And here’s the truly sad thing about the desire to end one’s life and then to really do just that. In most cases, a change of mindset would have changed everything, but the only way to change the mindset is to change the common denominator, not to blame those who might appear to be involved in the cause.
Change the common denominator? Does that mean that maybe the person who is considering suicide can really do something about all the reasons he is feeling that way? Maybe it does.
While no one can really know everything that’s going on in another’s heart and mind, there are outward signs that can be seen and known and could change the outcome of the situation if presented in a compassionate way, While some people may just not care about anything, most people care very much — about how they are treated, how they are spoken to, what others think of them, and so forth. But here’s the rub: WHY are they treated that way, or spoken to that way, or thought of that way? If they knew and understood WHY, and knew that changing all that could change their mindset, would it not be the most worthwhile thing in the world for them to learn?
I started this column by suggesting that the child who continues to not do well in school is responsible for himself and should not blame his teachers or his parents. But what if his teachers were not aware that he had trouble hearing everything the teachers said, or could not read as well as they assumed he could? And what if his parents never had him evaluated for such things due to lack of funds or lack of caring? No little child I know of has ever taken himself to a doctor for such evaluations and paid for his own testing… so maybe that brings us back to square one.
Before anyone can make a major change, that person needs to know what it is that needs changing or fixing, why it is important to make the change, has a plan for making the change, and hopefully someone to help him along the way… for guidance and moral support.
Will it always work? As with the young boy who didn’t know he couldn’t hear that well and no one ever bothered to check his reading skills and bring him up to speed, the answer is no.
But if we continue to be aware and show compassion to those around us, someday we’ll be able to catch the whys and wherefores of the problem before it gets out of hand, before it keeps growing past the point of no return. Someday we’ll be able to spot those things that need attention now, changing the mindset of their ending it all and be able to encourage them to make those changes for themselves that will lead to their being willing and eager to stay among the living.
Someday the compassion of others beyond the point where all the others have given up will make those who have given up on themselves find hope to live again.
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at maramistribune@gmail.com.

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