Reporter's Notebook: Driving For An Important Cause

The number of road rallies have increased around the country. In particular, here in the Twin Cities. There is a rally for your kind of cause, whether it is a very expensive one that features multiple experiences on a very high level, or some “down to Earth” get-together of cars and like-minded people. 

Some of these road rallies have a charity component to them. Some are for a good cause that aligns with the participants, organizers, and sponsors. 

My friends Phil and Ruth launched their second Survivor Rally this weekend. They left one of their sponsors’ location in Stillwater, Minnesota headed towards St. Louis. Their cause is for an organization called SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. It is an organization dedicated towards increasing awareness of suicide prevention and education towards assisting all stakeholders about what they can do prevent these incidents from happening. 

What SAVE does goes beyond a national suicide hotline. They also try to seek solutions surrounding suicide prevention, including dispensing local resources and grief support for those who lost their lives to it. 

If you have a rally or some charitable event that aligns with the cause with all stakeholders on board with supporting it, then you will have a successful time between fundraising and camaraderie among everyone. 

Attending the Survivor Rally launch in Stillwater came a convergent time for me. I had a bad experience at a car event recently and it left a bad taste for car culture. 

Without diving into details for the sake of embarrassment and emotional health, I would like to move on here…

In the aftermath of that experience, Ruth and some other friends of mine reached out and said that I was welcome at their launch event. I was glad they did. It gave me some hope for at least one part of car culture.

While I was at the rally, it struck me how much this cause aligned with me and my traverses around this Earth…many times over.

Listening to one of the Survivor Rally’s participants, Kevin, tell his story about his attempted suicide was what we all needed at that moment – even before 8:30 AM on a Friday at a tire shop in Stillwater. His message resonated beyond just the words. 

That message touched a lot of us. It certainly touched me. 

How? 

Think about the culture I am a part of – not just car culture. Without giving you the statistics, LGBTQ people have a higher rate of suicide than any distinct cultural and/or ethnic group on this planet. I have heard my share of stories about my fellow LGBTQ people taking their own lives for a summary of reasons. 

Yet, there is a lot of common ground among all of us. We’re stressed beyond belief. The COVID-19 pandemic has put wedges between anyone with a differing opinion from the next person. Our coping mechanisms are beyond repair, adding family stress and grief. 

I know about this first hand. 

While Kevin was talking, a flash came upon me about an incident that I dealt with some forty years ago. It was when I was a teenager either in high school or my first year in college. I remember having a knife in my hand, stressed beyond belief. I recall positioning the knife onto my body, but never plunging it into me. 

I was stressed out because of many reasons. I saw my mother, post-stroke, trying to communicate to me due to her aphasia. I couldn’t handle it at that moment. I did not want to live with all of the stress and trauma I was dealing with. 

Yet, I put the knife down. I did not cut myself that first time.

There were other attempts, ranging from turning a knife on me to threats over the phone. One last incident had the local police surrounding my home, eventually taking me to a nearby hospital for a few days inside their mental health ward.

Why would I take my life in my adult years? Why would anyone? 

I wish I could answer that in depth on this website. I’m afraid I said too much.

The best way to respond is to this is in two parts. On a societal level, I must repeat that the compounded stresses of the past several years through a pandemic, along with economic, cultural and community divides have made us fragile on a level – whether we feel it or not. Take in account our own coping mechanisms and understand how one feels differently than the next person – even within car culture and the career I am involved with. 

I would also like to remind you of your heroes. Names need not to be named. Some of them took their own lives. They serve as reminders of this cultural, societal, and experiential fragility that divides us more than you think. 

On a personal level, there is a lot to unpack.

We are conditioned to be compared to the next person. That is a trap that keeps us in a state of constant competition with each other. If we’re “less than” that next person, you can understand how one’s mental health is affected because of this societal condition. 

That’s me, in a nutshell. Fifty-seven years worth of societal “norms” unmet. 

If you have never felt any trauma that would prompt you to consider ending your life, you must be one perfect human being. I would like to remind you that we are not all perfect. Some of us continue to struggle with many things that affect our overall health. Mental health is not an isolated issue. We’re all affected by it whether we care about it or not.

And, yet, we stigmatize it. Doing so by making the other human being weaker than they really are. In the past, we often send those with mental health issues to a state institution. Of course, that was until the early 1980s. Still, we find ways to reduce the level off humanity of those who not only have mental/emotional/behavioral health issues – more so when we found out they have attempted to take their own lives.

All of the above answers the reasons to support a cause that is aligned with your life experience. Perhaps find a chartable event or road rally to help that cause out. Maybe to start the conversation towards finding ways for all of us to live in a better society. 

That is why my friends Ruth, Phil, Racheal, Jeff, Tina, Mike, Marty, Amanda, Nick, Sondra, Nathan, Jesse, Ace, Diane, Paige, Gary, Anna, and many others were participating and sponsoring in this year’s Survivor Rally.

Moreover, a huge thank you to Ruth and Phil for organizing this. And, to use this platform to bring awareness to a societal issue that continues to inflict pain and suffering on families, friends, and communities.

In the end, it is not what you drive on these charity rallies. It is whether this cause is aligned with you driving your vehicle in it. Rather, anything you do to help raise awareness and act upon the cause you support and share with your fellow members of your car culture – and your family and friend circle.

As a reminder, if you are in a crisis situation, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a new column for Victory & Reseda that focuses on the personal stories by our publisher that may or may not be related to the site's primary content. I hope you enjoyed this "Reporter's Notebook" column and are ready for future columns such as this one.

All photos by Randy Stern

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