Years back I was reading an article.
I can’t remember what the title of the article was or why I was conducting research on the particular topic, however, I do know that the message the article conveyed has stayed with me for many, many years.
The article was about the Golden Gate Bridge. To many of us, the bridge signifies beauty as it towers high towards the heavens, surrounded by a glorious curtain of clouds and fog. Children and adults have awed over it’s beauty, often times traveling all the way across the world just to snap a picture of the massive structure. But do these children, do these adults have any idea the dark secret that this bridge holds? A secret so dark that it is rarely spoken about except in rare articles like the one that I happened to come across.
As I was reading the article, my mind began to develop the words into images that formed within my brain and tugged harshly at my heart strings. A storm of emotions arose in me as I imagined the dark days that the bridge has seen all of the years since it was erected.
Instead of imagining a bright, red bridge surrounded by a glorious array of sunshine, my mind began to twist the image that I have always known of the bridge. My brain now saw a dark, black bridge surrounded by ominous clouds that were now releasing a fury of rain … rain that symbolized the tears that were being shed upon the walkways of that bridge every day.
I will attempt to recapture the story that I read so that you may see why this has stuck with me all of these years. (this is in my own words).
At night was the most prominent time that the bridge would see this tremendous heartache, however, the day time had begun to become a prime time for the thinker. The thinker, as I will call him, began his journey on either side of the bridge … it didn’t matter which for the bridge stretched wide and long in both directions. The thinker would step upon the bridge, high above the water below and begin his solemn walk on top of the hard concrete. At first, the thinker’s eyes would scale the ground, not daring to look up at the other people who were passing by. However, as his feet shuffled along, the eyes became curious and slowly lifted. The pupils captured hundreds of other faces beside the thinker’s body … shuffling along just as he was. Some were hurrying to get to work, some were enjoying a jog in the bright sunshine. Other people were pushing baby strollers while laughing at their toddlers who were running around in circles beside them.
The thinker’s eyes would then search. They would search these faces that surrounded him, all the while trying to suppress the feeling of loneliness that had so selfishly crawled into the bones of his very body … holding him as a prisoner. The feeling of loneliness, of just wanting to be wanted … to be noticed … could not be suppressed however. As others’ eyes met the thinker’s eyes the loneliness showed, but the others’ eyes jerked away, quickly as if seeing an image that had appalled them.
After this happening time after time, the thinker once again dropped his eyes to the ground, a sinking feeling filling his entire soul from head to feet. Then, the sinking feeling disappears and suddenly a strong, overpowering emotion overtakes the thinker’s walk … pushing his legs forward further onto the bridge, determined to come to the destination that has been so thoughtfully planned out for months. The thinker then stops, clasping his hands towards the front of his body and begins to twirl nervous thumbs around and around. The thinker’s eyes lift one last time towards the buzzing crowd, once again searching for that bit of kindness. Nothing. No one.
The thinker then turns towards the outer edge of the bridge, unwinds his thumbs and grasps the cold, metal of the railing that encases the bridge. The water glistened beneath the thinker, colored a beautiful, blue and beckoning soul. Without hesitation, the thinker climbs atop the railing, his calf muscles screaming already from the exertion that it takes to climb to the top rail. With sweaty palms and shaking lips, the thinker plunges to his death. The thinker no longer became a thinker of suicide, rather he became a doer. Another life lost.
This very story occurs hundreds of times per year.
This is what has stuck with me, haunted me in a since. The thinker was just as his name sounds. He was thinking of committing suicide because he believed no one loved him, no one cared enough to know that he even existed. He searched the eyes of strangers, hoping that maybe just one person out of the hundreds that walked by him would offer up a simple smile.
When the suicide note was found days later in his apartment, the article stated that the man had said if someone smiled at him, he wouldn’t commit suicide.
Isn’t that just an awful, sad, heart wrenching thing to read? “If someone just smiles at me I won’t commit suicide.”
How dare us, as human beings, be so desensitized to the emotions of other humans. How dare us be so incredibly caught up in our own selfish ways that we fail to notice the hurt that other humans are feeling, especially that of our family or our friends. How dare us not do anything to help someone who is fighting the intense, all consuming disease of depression, of anxiety. How dare us not let our eyes linger on a stranger and offer a simple, effortless smile.
I want each of you to remember this story for the rest of your lives. It has really helped me to be more interactive with people when I am out in public. Believe it or not, every day I think of this story when I encounter the public, whether it is at the grocery store, a ball game or even at the doctor’s office. I may not personally know what anyone is going through. Heck, they may be the strangest person on the planet, however, if I can prevent ONE person from committing suicide, then my effortless smile is WORTH IT. If I can make ONE person’s day, JUST ONE, I have accomplished a great and amazing thing in this world.
You never know what someone may be going through. You never know when you may walk by that person that wrote that suicide note saying, “If just one person smiles at me… I won’t do it today.” YOU NEVER KNOW.
So smile. Curve those lips into an effortless grin. Show your pearly whites a bit.
You just never know …. you may be the one that saves someone’s life.