These were my opening remarks from the Malden Overcoming Addiction Vigil on November 22, 2015 at Malden High School.
Thank you to Malden Overcoming Addiction for partnering with the City of Malden to host this vigil and thank you to Malden High School for providing this space.
Tonight is important … tonight is important because:
- lives have been wrecked, interrupted, and ended too soon by the disease of addiction … We get to remember those that have been hurt the most by addiction tonight.
- Tonight is important because many here have lost loved ones … We get to love one another.
- Tonight is important because many aren’t getting the help they need to beat the disease of addiction because they feel trapped, not only by addiction, but also by the stigma that comes with it.
- Tonight is important because babies are being born with an addiction, but without parents.
- Tonight is important because four people/day die in Massachusetts from opioid-related causes.
- Tonight is important because we need help … All of us need help.
Tonight is important because, there’s someone else that’s going to become addicted tonight, tomorrow.
Tonight is important because someone is going to overdose in the coming hours.
Tonight is important because we all know this is all wrong. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable and if we sit back and think about it, we all know that we shouldn’t be gathering to remember those lost. We all know that we shouldn’t be crying right now. We all know that we shouldn’t be worried about what is going to happen to our children.
This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be … But it is.
I was reading a story the other day, a story from the Gospel of Mark, in the Bible. Some of us here believe this story is true and some of us don’t. Whether you believe or not, please hear me out because I’d bet we can all agree that we want this story to be true. Even more, I bet we all want it to be true in our own lives.
We aren’t told their names, but the story tells us that four men carried a paralyzed man to see a man that was preaching in a small house. We don’t know what caused this man’s paralysis, but he was paralyzed and his friends had heard that this man, named Jesus, was able to do miraculous things. Unfortunately, they arrived to a house so small and a crowd so big that no one else could get in. We might expect that they would turn away, grumble a bit, and hope for another day.
Instead these four men carried the guy onto the roof, began chipping away at the mud, at the dirt, at anything that was keeping them from getting this paralyzed man to Jesus. The hole got bigger and bigger until they could lower the paralyzed man down, on his bed, into the room.
And, when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now their were some folks around that didn’t like Jesus or the things he said so they started questioning him. Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Pick up your bed and walk.” “But that you may know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And the man rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and gave glory to God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!””
I love that story for so many reasons. One of them is that I believe everything that it says about Jesus and the forgiveness and healing that can be found in him. I stand here a broken-down mess that has been forgiven by Jesus.
But I also love it because of the paralyzed man’s friends. I love this story because the paralyzed man couldn’t get to Jesus on his own. Healing may have been waiting for him at Jesus, but he just couldn’t get there.
But he didn’t have to because some men, some unnamed men, picked up this man’s bed and carried him to Jesus. And when they couldn’t get close enough, they carried him on top of the house, dug a hole through the roof and lowered him until he got healed up … And he walked out of that joint a new man … Legs that worked and a soul that was free.
I’m telling this story tonight because there are many in our lives that are being paralyzed not only by the disease of addiction, but by the stigma, the mark of disgrace that comes with it. We have family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers that need healing but are trapped by the disease and the stigma.
Healing is needed, but there are giant obstacles. Obstacles like stigma … Crowded rooms in buildings that are too small… Folks that don’t want anyone to have forgiveness … Folks that don’t believe healing can come. This world has tons of obstacles.
I told you that story because I not only want Malden to have the forgiveness and healing that comes from Jesus. I want stories of healing to be told of Malden that are like the four friends.
Don’t you want to live in a city full of friends like the ones the paralyzed man had?
- Friends that will find out where healing is and get you there.
- Friends that will carry you when you can’t walk
- Friends that will see that there’s no more room and then step back and put a whole in the roof so that you get the care you need.
- Friends that will believe for you when you can’t on your own.
If we’re going to fight against all of the things that aren’t supposed to be, alcohol, heroin, prescription painkillers, and all of the loss that comes with them, we need friends like that and we need to be friends like these.
That’s what tonight is about … Let’s stop blaming the paralyzed man for not walking and get him help. Let’s carry people … not addicts, people … not junkies, people … To where healing is.
Tonight we get to do that through connecting to one another, connecting to resources, and finding out how we can all be friends like the ones in the story. One practical step you can take tonight is to be trained on Narcan.
Let’s be friends that fight against what’s not supposed to be.