This is a post I wrote for a lovely, locally-owned gift shop I used to work in, and the final product had inclusions from its incredible owners and compassionate staff. In the back of the gift shop was an art shrine, and community members regularly left prayers and offerings in the prayer bowl. Usually they were hilarious, sometimes tender, vulnerable and heartwarming, and in the wake of a series of public suicides and overdoses, an employee found a tough, overwhelmed, anonymous note. We decided to respond with love. The shop closed down in January of 2019, so I have preserved these words on my own site.
(content warning: suicide)
Many of our long-term customers know that the Shrine Room has been one of our favorite parts of the Cameron’s experience for over a decade, and for over a decade people have stopped by to rest a while and take in the beauty and whimsy. It has always been important to us to have a space in the store, full of art and reminders of what is sacred, where nothing is for sale. And it has always been uplifting to us how many of you have left your own art, mementos, and tokens behind, making our shrine truly a community space.
We are honored when our customers leave behind their special thoughts and prayers in the bowl in our shrine, and over the years we have been touched by your trust in us. Your notes have made us laugh, brought us tears, and opened our hearts, and we have read every single note that has ever been left. For those of you who have left jokes, inspirations, and silliness, we are grateful for how you’ve shared your joy. For those of you who have left us your sorrows, your grief, and your fears, we honor your vulnerability and are genuinely moved by your heartfelt sharing.
There have always been a handful of notes praying for strength in adversity or for hope in the midst of sorrow. Over the past few weeks as we’ve seen a handful of high-profile stories in the media about mental health and substance abuse struggles and suicide, we have also noticed from the prayers left behind that many of you are struggling as well.
And we want you to know this:
Many of us who are part of the Cameron’s family have been there, too. We’ve hurt so badly we didn’t think it would ever get better. And we’ve struggled to keep showing up when we weren’t sure we could. We’ve experienced pain, grief, joy, love, loss, loneliness, heartache, despair, and bliss, and that is part of what drives us to keep Cameron’s magical, to make it glow with love.
If you’re struggling, we see you. When you come in our store, we hope you can enjoy a small respite, just for a bit, from your everyday worries and weights. We hope being surrounded by color and sparkle and beauty and products that make you smile and laugh warms you. We are grateful to be one of your favorite stores, and that our shrine is one of your favorite places. We know it isn’t much and that Cameron’s is a gift shop, not an alternate universe, but we’ve always said that Cameron’s is more than a place – it’s an experience – and we strive to make it an experience that uplifts and charms and encourages.
If you notice one of your friends is struggling, has dropped off the radar, or is withdrawing, reach out. Bake some cookies and drop them by. Ask to bring over dinner one night. Even something as small as a text that says, “I miss seeing you around and would love to connect” can let someone know they matter to you when they might be wondering if they matter to anyone.
And if you are struggling, count us among those who are grateful for your sparkle. You haven’t lost it. It’s still there, just under a few layers, inching its way back out.
If you’re feeling suicidal, know you can reach someone who cares at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
For more on how to support a friend who is struggling, check out http://www.bethe1to.com.