Yesterday I threw away 1800 pounds of food. Two nights ago someone I knew died. And in both cases, if I had been better... maybe it wouldn't have happened.

I read a story once about a youth who apprenticed with a master healer. After years of learning about herbs, poultices, operations, anatomy and health and nutrition, and participating in hundreds of procedures, the master said, "I have nothing left to teach you. This is your final test. Go out and save 100 people. Go out and kill 100 people. Be incredible and save people them from crises that would have left them dead. Be inadequate and watch them die because you weren't good enough. Be the person who saves someone, and the person who could have saved someone, but didn't. Only then will you be a true healer and come to appreciate the cost and impact of our craft."

I cried when I moved two pallets of moldy asparagus and grapes into the truck, when I picked up those same boxes and tossed them onto the concrete at the waste station. If I had more time, or a better process, or a hundred volunteers, I probably could have saved at least a third of the asparagus by sorting and blanching and drying it... and all of the grapes by treating them with alkali, citric acid & vitamin c, and a probiotic fermentation. I could have turned all of it into chicken feed or pig sop or compost.

But if I stayed up all night processing I still wouldn't finish, and then the asparagus would rot on the warehouse floor over the weekend, potentially impacting the relationship I have with my borrowed space. 

I don't have the volunteer force yet.

I could have stayed up all night and turned it all to compost, but my personal compost pile would quickly overflow and jeopardize my relationship with my neighbors. Eventually I'll have a list of people to come take food after its end of life for animal feed and compost... but I don't yet.

I'm inadequate.

Is it my fault?

Is it a doctor's fault when he lacks knowledge that he could have had... knowledge that would have saved someone under his hands?

Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. Hopefully in both cases - mine and his - we learn something and grow and change and become closer to what we really want to be.

I cried tonight in a crowded dance hall, finally getting a chance to process the suicide I had heard about. Is it trite to talk about dying produce and a dying friend in the same setting? Maybe. The impact is different. But the tears were the same. Both hurt. Both compel me to change. Both are proof of living in a broken, painful, imperfect world of which I am a broken, imperfect part.

I've seen hundreds of people in suicidal crises. For whatever reason, that's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My world has always had people who struggled with thoughts of suicide. From the time I was 11, at temple dedications, EFY, summer camps, people at church and school and gas stations and grocery stores and the library, then later through online chat rooms and emails and Facebook messages... people have approached me and spilled their hearts, needing a friend to talk to in crisis, somehow knowing I would listen.

A friend said something to me that helped me. "Pray for him. He still needs your support and love." Death sometimes feels so final - robbing me of the ability to interact with someone or make a difference - but it really isn't. Death isn't the end of existence, and pain doesn't end at the end of life. Suicide is a decision made in the midst of crisis, but my own suicidal ideation in the past wasn't just from a moment. It was built on a lifetime of pain and anguish and hopelessness and loneliness and work that made me feel worth nothing. 

And that doesn't go away at death. I don't know exactly what the next life holds for each of us, but I do know that much of what exists here continues to exist there - especially emotional ordeals. Which means, perhaps, those who have passed need my prayers of support more than those they left behind.

And while it doesn't make the pain any less, it gives me something to do. Something to hold on to. Something to feel like I still *can* make a difference in someone's existence, even if I failed to be there in mortality.

I can't save every piece of produce that I accept for donation. I won't be able to moving forward, even with a host of volunteers to process food and an avant-garde triage system that allows us to quickly take care of everything. But I can make a small difference by improving today, by taking what I've learned, the pain, the frustration, and the sorrow, and using that as fuel to learn and grow and make tomorrow better.

I also can't be there for every person in my life. Autism and social anxiety and remnants of bipolar, awkwardness and fear and depression and OCD and obsession and addiction and simple stupidity and naïveté and all the rest will get in the way. I'll fail again, even with a prompting from God that pushes me and tells me what to do. Others will die under my watch. I can pray for those who have gone on, and go to work trying to better myself, hoping to make a difference in those who have been left behind.

And, hopefully, as the days go on, the true Healer will give me part of His guidance. He'll help me grow and change and become something better, and I'll come to appreciate the cost and impact of His craft - helping people find joy and happiness in this life and eternity.

If you need a friend to talk to, I'm still here. And the email I started back when I first began blogging is still around. You can find me at

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