If You See Something


He was very tall and very thin, his features broad and well formed. He wore his hair in a stupendous Afro. He was a smart boy, and he got decent grades. Mr. Johnson said he was also very, very good at basketball. Once, when Mr. J asked the boy why he hadn’t tried out for the basketball team, the boy looked at him for a moment with those huge brown eyes and then answered simply that he had missed the tryouts…

The dull-colored, tiny-windowed, single-story stone house the boy lived in was the frequent topic of neighborhood conversation. “Lots of people in and out,” neighbors would remark with raised eyebrows. There’d be a pause and someone would add, “Likely drugs,” in case the raised eyebrows had not made it clear.

There was a lot of traffic in and out of the house, The Woman admitted, and always three or four beat-up cars in the driveway. Occasionally she would see the boy on the small, crumbling concrete patio behind the house, smoking – sometimes with friends, sometimes alone -- and she’d wonder about him, a little.

Wondered about him, his parents, the missed tryouts...

She was wondering about him the day she walked her dogs around the basketball court at the local park. A group of teens were playing a spirited game of basketball at one end of the court. The boy was at the other end of the court, sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette and checking his phone. Alone.

As she looked at him, she found herself wishing – hard – that the teens would invite the boy to play. Or maybe, she thought, if he would just saunter down and ask to join, they’d say, Sure, man. But he didn’t saunter down, and they didn’t call out to him to join the fray. And it made her feel sad somehow.

Something tugged at her heart and whispered in her ear and she thought…she wondered…well, heck, maybe she should just go down there and introduce herself, “Hi! I’m your neighbor…” but as quickly as she had the thought, she let it go. The boy would probably be uncomfortable, she reasoned, or think she was the crazy dog lady.  She hesitated just a moment longer and then moved on. She took one last glance over her shoulder as she left the park. The boy was shooting hoops. Alone.

So when she drove into her neighborhood a week later and saw the yellow crime scene tape around the house, there was a strange ringing in her ears and a tightening in her chest. Her heart began to thud-thud-thud. You don’t know, she coached herself. It could be anything.

But she did know and it wasn’t just anything. It was the boy, and he had committed suicide.

And even though The Woman knows that speaking to the boy that day on the basketball court would not likely have stemmed the tide threatening to carry him away, still she wishes -- oh, how much she wishes!-- she had spoken to him that day.

The Woman lets me write this story so that YOU will know that she thinks it is better…it is always better…to say something. Maybe you can help; maybe you can’t. Maybe a person will be moved, touched by your effort to reach out to them. Maybe not. But The Woman, saddened by the loss of the boy, wants you to know that you will want to know that you tried.

If you see something, say something.

Jesus of Nazareth was a See Something Say Something kind-of-guy. The physically suffering. The poor of material goods and the poor of spirit. Grieving mothers and distressed sisters. Troubled rich men. And yes, those tortured by their demons…

He, who saw all things, was always and forever saying something. Something to help.

So if you see something, my friends, reach out. If you even wonder if you are seeing something, reach out.

If you see something, say something. We belong to each other.