The bells and whistles have all sounded their alarms. It is February 1, 2012, the first day of Black History month! Yessssss!!!! I can't wait to see what's being posted out in Cyber Space to commemorate this most noteworthy time of year. Yet, when I open my browser, I cannot believe my eyes. Every headline shares the shattering news that the face, the mastermind, the catalyst for Soul Train (The Hippest Trip in America), Mr. Don Cornelius, has died. And not only has he died, but he took his own life.
By now all I can say is, "Ohhhhhhhh Lord, have mercy, Jesus! What could it have been?" Now I know there may be those who are wondering if I have totally lost my mind. To answer your question, the answer is no. The reality is that I am a soul child of the 1970s. My mama fixed my hair in Afro puffs and allowed me to be just who I was: a skinny little girl from Atlanta's East Lake community who simply enjoyed the simple things in life. One such simple thing was a big deal that practically everybody in the African-American community knew and loved: Soul Train!
My sister and I could not wait until Saturday morning to watch Soul Train. We liked seeing the fashions the people wore, we loved checking out all the new dance moves (that's how we and so many others learned to dance), and of course, we loved watching the guests perform live. But the greatest feature of the show was, hands down, the Soul Train Line. OH-MY-GOODNESS!!!!
I know this all may seem a bit much, particularly in such a setting as this. But the relevance is that the loss of Don Cornelius was not merely an ordinary loss. This man was a legend whose life impacted so many. The sting of his death was such a devastating blow to the African-American community, among others, that there's no way I could avoid addressing what has happened. You see, his death opened a dialogue about a topic that is rarely addressed within our community. We don't like to talk about suicide, but it's truly a very real problem.
I won't get into details of statistics on the issue of suicide, but there are a plethora of questions that Mr. Cornelius' situation raises: What could have possibly been that bad? Was there not one shoulder upon which he could lean? Did not anyone see his symptoms of distress? What could have been done to avoid this? And the list goes on and on and on. In the midst of pondering these questions, I heard syndicated radio show host Steve Harvey say something that I thought made a whole lot of sense. In fact, his statement pretty much mirrors a statement that I frequently make. My statement echoes that of the late Superintendent Nathan L. Simmons, "As long as there is life, there is hope." Mr. Harvey's statement was, "As long as there is God there is hope."
If we want to be technical, I would surmise that the statements basically mirror each other, considering that according to basic Biblical knowledge of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit being one in the same. In like manner, with John 14:16 informing us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, we can essentially concur that these statements present the same message.
The connotation of the statement is this: regardless of what is going on in this world, we must know that there is refuge in Jesus Christ. I know...God knows I know...that this life can present us with some seemingly unbearable situations. Jesus even found Himself at the crossroads of life when in the Garden of Gethsemane. As the weight of what was upon Him during the time of His rapidly-approaching crucifixion, the Bible compares His sweat to drops of blood. That was some serious STRESS right there! We've got to know that there is NO situation that's too hard for God.
And not only that, we've got to take time to not be so concerned about our own needs, but when we see a brother or sister in distress, we must have hearts that are sensitive and compassionate enough to recognize any warning signs of desperation. Mr. Cornelius' death should have raised our level of consciousness on these things and more. Of course, my heart aches for his family; they have my most sincere condolences. In the meantime, my most fervent prayer is that the body of Christ band together like never before and make a greater effort to heed the signs of those who may need us the most. We should never assume that just because a person has fame, wealth, a good name, popularity and all of the outside appearances that signify success that they are problem-free. Many people have to smile to keep from crying. Many people portray utter happiness when the truth of the matter is that they are utterly miserable.
Dear Heavenly Father, as a legend in the African-American community whose life CANNOT be ignored has tragically left the face of this earth, please help us to realize that no matter what our problem may be that we can ALWAYS run to you and share every care and every concern in full confidence that you are, indeed, able to do something about it. Help us to be sensitive to the needs of all mankind who may need to know of your love, your grace, your mercy, your goodness. It is in the most matchless name of Jesus we pray. AMEN.