by Tim Barnes
Great sadness and the ever looming question, WHY? still looms large across my life. Why did Klebold and Harris go into Columbine high school on April 20, 1999 and kill 13 people? Why did my nephew Greg Barnes, a junior this year at Columbine, then kill himself on May 4, 2000 less than two weeks after the one-year anniversary of the shooting?
As Greg’s uncle I ask why, why, why? Why is suicide among 15-24 year olds the 3rd leading cause of death? This kid had everything to live for. He was a high school All- American in Basketball, averaging almost 27 points a game, and only 27 points because he passed the ball a lot. He was the most giving kid I have ever known. Greg was a 3.8 GPA student who never got less than a 4.0 GPA in middle school. Greg was hunted by every major University in the United States and was even raising the eyebrows of NBA teams! Why did he choose to give up his future?
I live in San Diego and am the youngest brother of Greg’s dad, Mark. Mark and Greg, of course, live in Littleton Colorado — a nice well to do suburb southwest of Denver Colorado. The sad thing is that I just completed a book one-month prior to Greg’s death called YOU! Are the Difference. The book might have been some help to Greg. The topic of the book is your Spirit, Mind and Body, and how everything should flow from your spirit, through your mind into execution by your body.
What was the condition of Greg’s Spirit?
I am sad because I feel a short-term mental condition put his body to death. I am happy because I know Greg’s spirit is in heaven, and is no longer bound by the frailness of mind and body.
Making a Difference
How can we make a difference in our own lives and our kids? What can be done to see to it that this number three killer of kids is arrested? The shooters at the Columbine Tragedy committed suicide; they just took 13 others with them. To kill yourself you must be at a dead end on Hope Street. In my book I wrote that the key, the cornerstone to fulfillment in life, is the condition of your spirit. I learned this the hard way.
I chased after the Olympic Games from 1977-1984 as a National Class 1500-meter (mile) track and field athlete. As a 4-minute miler I learned the pressure of success. I feel this had something to do with Greg’s death. When you get to the top of your discipline, be it Basketball, Music, Business, or Track and Field, the air gets thin, and there is less, and less margin for error. Example: would you be disappointed to run a 4:03 mile, or only score 18 points in a basketball game? Well unfortunately in our world of media icons and false idols these RESULTS are considered failure. Are they really failure?
The writing of my book was a result of my own recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. I chased the brass ring and as I slipped from the top of my sport, I turned to other ways to stimulate my sense of well being and give me release from self induced pressure to succeed. I came close to killing myself.
In April of 1999 I checked into a rehab center and, in a nutshell, learned to let go of result and embrace process. I learned to take one day at a time. I learned to lead from the spirit, and not the flesh of mind and body. As I have told my daughter, “throw your report card away. I do not care about your grades. I only care that you learn, that you enjoy the process and learn to seek knowledge, through the joyful process of learning. Enjoy school, and do not let fear of failure from pressure to attain a silly letter A or B get in the way of enjoying the process of learning.”
I wish I had been closer to Greg so I could’ve conveyed to him what I learned: Life is a process, not an event. Let result go, learn to enjoy, and be fulfilled by the process of doing and participating.
When I asked World Record holder of the Indoor Mile record, Emon Coglan, how to run a sub four minute mile, he said: “Forget about the clock and to race. Enjoy the race, the camaraderie, and compete for fun, let your enthusiasm, and talent come through in the happiness of participating in a game.”
It is not what you do, but how you do it, that matters. Choose to have a good day. One of the only things in life you ever have any control over is what you choose to think and what you choose to put your faith in. If you approach life this way, joy of process over pressure of result, you will win, you will succeed and you will be happy. You will grow old in peace and suicide will not be an option.
Greg I love you, and I will see you in heaven.