We all want to make a difference in this world. No one goes into life thinking, "I want the things I do and say to hurt people." Or if you do, you're deranged. We choose our jobs based on the idea that we can best serve the world in one particular profession. Despite the fact that my six year old says he wants to be a "regular guy" and not a doctor like his four year old sister, we want the things we do to matter. We've all heard it said a million times. "I want to make a difference." "I want to help people." And maybe the things you do or say really do influence people for the better. I certainly hope so. But what if that influence wasn't exactly what you hoped it would be? What if, because of you, someone died? What if, because of you, someone CHOSE to die? What if you were one of the THIRTEEN REASONS WHY?
Jay Asher has created a masterpiece in his debut novel Thirteen Reasons Why. In the story, Clay Jensen discovers a package on his doorstep when he arrives home from school one day. Inside are cassette taped numbered 1-13 created by Hannah Baker, his first crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. When he plays tape #1, he hears Hannah's voice telling the story of her life, more specifically, why she ended it. She goes on to say, "If you are listening to these tapes, you are one of those reasons." Clay's duty is to listen to the tapes to find out his role in her death and pass them on to the next person. Accompanying the tapes was a map, delivered weeks before the suicide. As Hannah walks the listener through her story, they can follow the map to places that influenced her life.
It's with horror Clay listens. He can't remember what he could have possibly said or done that would have hurt Hannah enough to make her kill herself. He even cared for her. As he listens to the stories, he discovers it's not always a "big something" that's mentioned. A rumor here, ignoring there. But all the small events add up. For someone who needs a word of encouragement, for someone who needs a friend to listen, taking that away even for a second can crush the human spirit.
As we read, we see Hannah's tapes woven into Clay's reactions in a back and forth narrative point of view. It is hugely powerful being able to experience the heartache from her perspective and to see his immediate reaction. I have to admit, I was brought to tears when Clay begs the people on the tapes to stop what they're doing, to pay attention to what's happening.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a potent testimony to young people showing them that EVERYTHING they say and do is observed by someone. Nothing goes unnoticed. And sometimes what we consider the least of offenses have dire consequences.
So, don't hold back that word of encouragement. Keep your eyes open to the truth. Dispel rumors as they come and be the absolute best person you can be. You never know who might need what you have to offer to live another day.