Judge Not.

It has not been a quiet week here in Whitefish Bay.  In fact, it has been pretty awful.  Not for me, personally, but for all of us, generally, because of the devastating death of a 15-year-old girl from a drug overdose.  Words and words have been written about that, and I won’t add to them.  You can follow the link to the local paper and get the whole story.  What I want to talk about is an uglier aspect of people’s reactions to a tragedy like this.  Call it presumption, stone throwing, judging, whatever you like. 

Because most of my readers are not local, I need to give you some context.  Whitefish Bay is the prototypical wealthy, highly-educated, white bread, apple pie, all-the-kids-are-above-average suburb.   We have sidewalks on which the kids walk to school – the community is too small to justify buses.  We have parades and ice cream socials and band concerts in the park.  We can walk to the grocery store or Starbucks and will always run into someone we know.  The church parking lots are full on Sundays, and the PTOs are flush with cash and volunteers. 

Get the picture?  It’s a nice place to live.  It’s a happy place, where the police officers wave and the librarian knows your kid’s name.  When tragedy befalls a family not unlike most families in the community, it’s news.  Everyone feels it.  Everyone is somehow touched by it – either through personal connections or life parallels.  And for the most part, people pull together and support the grieving, doing the best they can to bring comfort in a time that seems so hopeless.

But then there’s the seamy underbelly.  The people who, in whispers, start to speculate.  “I probably shouldn’t say this, but…”  And, “do you suppose…”  You know what I’m talking about.  People looking for the salacious, the malicious, and the downright unfair.

I say to those folks, “There but for the grace of God go ALL OF US.”    Who are we to speculate about what goes on in a family?  Why do we try to place blame in a situation that is sad and sorry enough?  Does anyone think for a minute that these parents didn’t want for their child exactly what we all want for ours?  Can any of us say how we would handle it if our teenager was drawn to risky behaviors?  It’s so easy to say “MY kid would never.”  But that’s crap.  No one is immune.  No one.  The current situation here in Whitefish Bay should underscore that. 

I ask people – and unfortunately, the people who really need to see this have no idea I’m writing it – to think before they talk.  And think again.  And then, if they have nothing constructive to say, to keep their mouths firmly shut. 

I’ll be back with knitting later.  This just had to be said.

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15 Comments

Filed under Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion, Lifebits

15 responses to “Judge Not.

  1. Beth

    As I understand from the newspaper coverage, the girl’s mother died two years ago and that is roughly the time she began using. I think of how devastated and unmoored I was at losing my mother when I was 45 and there is no question in my mind that, had it happened when I was younger, my life might have played out very differently and much more like this girl’s. As someone who was just lucky not to be tested when I was younger, I’m not about to judge anyone. I grieve for her and her family.

  2. Amy

    What Beth said. In December a neighbor girl, 16, killed herself. Her mom died of cancer two years earlier. And there were whispers, just like you’re talking about–what the dad did or didn’t do, etc. But I’m with you–there is no way he would have not wanted to prevent this if he could have. None of us are perfect, especially as parents. I assume that fear is part of the reason people point fingers.

  3. You’re right, of course. People say stupid things when they are afraid.

  4. That poor family. What a nightmare to go through. It’s such a shame that people cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes and try to understand how hard it must be. I like to think most of us are above that, but there will always be those few…

    xo

  5. The family and community are in my thoughts. How very, very sad.

  6. Truly one of the saddest aspects of human nature is how quickly we seek to comfort ourselves by carrying on with hurtful assumptions.

  7. knitwonpurltoo

    It doesn’t matter where you live. When you lose a parent early in life (I was 15), you are vulnerable, stupid and hurting worse than you ever thought possible. My heart goes out to those she left behind. She did not kill herself. She was trying to escape the pain. Poor poor baby. As for others passing judgement? They best look in their own homes and hearts.

  8. Poor sweet little girl, and poor devastated family. Keep taking the high road, Nora, and you’ll drag us all up there with you, and make the world a better place for it. XOXO

  9. What a tragic loss for the family and community. Sadly, there will always be people who look to place blame; be glad that you are not one of them.

  10. You may not have been reading my blog yet a year and a half ago, when a wonderful young woman I knew overdosed on prescription drugs while away at college. We danced together in the Nutcracker, I know her parents. They tried to do everything right. There are always ‘what ifs’, if it happens to your loved one, but fault? Ultimately, a bad choice was made by that poor girl (compounded by some other bad choices, it sounds like, by those who are now being charged, which sounds appropriate). Just as by my young friend. And people who whisper and finger-point make me both angry and a little ill. If they were dealing with their own child who was severely depressed, or addicted, or had bipolar disorder, or perhaps most difficult, schizophrenia (onset in the late teens in young men is typical)…I think it would be brought home to them that it’s not the ‘fault’ of anyone or related to how a child is raised. (Of course, people like that would try to hide problems, because “what would people think?”)

  11. …and you said is very well.
    So sad. Bless her heart, you know that had to have been seriously rough.
    Unfortunately there’s a whole lotta asshats out there.

  12. My heart goes out to everyone touched by this tragedy.

  13. Beautifully written Nora. It’s true – these situations are sad/hard enough as it is without turning on the family with malicious speculation.

  14. Doris

    You said that very well. I can never understand why someone has to offer criticism rather than support when someone else is grieving. Anything can happen in any family…we need to be there for each other, not criticize.

  15. Maddie Kiefer lived in a house just around the corner from the house I grew up in. My BFF’s parents lived next door to us, and next door to the Kiefer home on the other side. Apparently when BFF’s parents still lived there, they because great friends with the Kiefer family and were like grandparents to the Kiefer kids. Alas, they passed away a few years ago themselves. What a sad situation for all involved. And unfortunately it could happen in any of our families, any place.

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