Last month the board that oversees the Golden Gate Bridge approved a $76 million funding plan for a suicide-prevention net. In 2013, 46 people jumped to their deaths. There are phones on the bridge’s walkway, encouraging people to call if they are suicidal.
Just a few days ago, the first suicide happened on the new span of the Bay Bridge in California. People were up in arms, wondering why a suicide barrier wasn’t part of that design.
This week making the rounds—again—on Facebook was a 2010 story of a man in Sydney, Australia, who lived by “The Gap”—a popular suicide destination. As he met at least one suicidal person each week, Don Ritchie smiled and invited the person to come to his house for tea. In a span of 50-plus years, he literally talked over 160 people off the ledge.
I couldn’t help but see a stark difference. Instead of wondering why those in charge weren’t doing something, Don Ritchie was doing something.
I couldn’t help but see a parallel. In our churches, when we see someone struggling, we often wonder why the pastor or the people in charge aren’t doing something or why they haven’t created a program to address the issue. In reality, we can be doing something.
In a society where kiosks will replace humans at restaurants personal interaction is increasingly important.
All it takes is for each one of us to realize we can make a difference.
Look in your church, which is a spiritual medical tent for the hurting. It’s filled with people who put on a smile when in reality they desperately need attention. See your community, which is filled with sad and lonely people who could use a smile and an invitation for a cup of tea.
Don Ritchie didn’t save all 160 people at once. He simply, one by one over the course of his life, invited someone into his life. You can make a difference. This week, as you’re out and about, look someone in the eyes and smile, call a friend, send a letter to a widow, invite a family to dinner. Use your life and your words to share the hope that you have. Talk about the God who loves you, who gives you a certain hope when situations seem bleak, who comforts you when you are lonely. Let others know that the same love, hope, and comfort are waiting for them too.
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. You can follow her on Twitter: @LindaBuxa