Dear Man on the Bridge,
It was a beautiful sunset over the river on Friday night, wasn’t it? You and I–we were both admiring it…a beautiful summer evening in September. It was warmer than we’d expect in September in the evening…a truly lovely night to be out.
I was out for an evening walk…with a flimsy excuse of an errand to walk for a couple of miles at sunset on a gorgeous evening.
I’m not sure why you were out at sunset.
I’ll never know.
I have to say that while we were both looking at the same sunset, we may have had very different perspectives. I’ll never know tho…and for that I want to apologize.
You see, it bothered me that you were sitting on the train bridge. Folks aren’t really allowed on the train bridge…but I’ve often see boys fancy themselves daredevils, running up and down the train side of the bridge. The fact that you were there, at all, wasn’t what bothered me.
However, I’ve never seen folks sit so quietly and still on the side with their feet hanging over the side, looking like it would be so easy just to slide into a free fall into the water.
That was different.
And maybe dangerous.
Maybe you were just enjoying the view of the sun setting over the river.
But maybe you were wondering if life was worth living.
Sometimes, when people are feeling lonely and desolate, they go to a desperate place. I’ll never know…and I hang my head at that.
Cuz you see…I talk for a living. I ask people how they are doing as a lifestyle. All the time. And I encourage people to be brave and do hard things…and I blog about the power of the ask, and tell folks I’m learning to ask more, and recognize the courage that it takes to ask, but how it’s worth it.
I even had this silly experience last week that I was proud of…Sam, the guy ahead of me at Starbucks ordered a caramel macchiato. The finished drink was just sitting on the counter, waiting for Sam, with him engrossed in the conversation at a nearby table. And I, after a flippin’ two minute internal wrestle, leaned over and said, “You’re Sam? Your drink is ready.” And of course he said thank you, and went to go get his drink, and it was no big deal. But it felt like a huge act of courage to call out to Sam, when I just wanted to quietly stand there and wait for my latte and not call attention to myself. I was kinda pleased at myself on that one.
Because you see sir, I’m pretty good at asking people all sorts of questions on my turf…in my office, or in my home. I do it for a living, and I like doing it, and it’s rich, and others find it valuable to be asked questions by me. But when push comes to shove, I’m actually pretty shy.
Stick me on a bridge with a total stranger at dusk…and my courage evaporates.
Like. it. was. never. there.
I feel a little sick about that…because if there’s one thing I can do well, is ask people how they are doing…and yet I was speechless.
I’m not proud of that.
And so, man on the bridge…you mighta needed a stranger to ask you how you were doing. You might have needed someone to be courageous and go outside of her bubble to show you that she noticed you and hoped you were OK.
She did care…she was concerned about you. She hoped you were OK.
But she was too scared to ask you if you were OK.
And you will never know.
And that’s not OK.
I want you to know I wrestled with myself as I slowly walked by. Trying to tell myself that most likely you would just say hi back, and tell me you were enjoying the setting of the sun. Trying to talk myself into simply asking you a brief question…a small thing with love that likely would have meant nothing…or maybe, just maybe, woulda meant everything.
What was the worst that would happen? You mighta just thought this crazy lady was rudely interrupting your quiet reverie, because she was a busybody.
Would that have been so bad?
I acted like it was. And I’m sorry.
And so, man-on-the bridge, I’ve been thinking about you for days. Hoping that if you were contemplating if life was worth living, that someone acted on their courage and let you know that they noticed you, and that you mattered.
Because you do matter.
You mattered to me…and I’ve thought of you often since Friday, and prayed for you…and soooo wished I had let you know. If you are struggling, I woulda happily stopped to chat, and show you that a total stranger cared about you. We mighta just shared a few moments of conversation, or chuckled at the graffiti on the bridge, or somehow just had a few minutes of genuine connection.
Sir, September 10 is the World Wide Suicide Prevention Day. What would happen if folks like me acted on their courage when they saw quiet, contemplative, withdrawn folks like you, and on the off chance that they feel like life isn’t worth it, bravely asked, “How are you doing?”
Sometimes, we might get rebuffed. (I would have to remember that this is hardly fatal, even though I act as if it might be.) Sometimes it might lead to a brief conversation with a stranger, and sometimes, on very special occasions, it might convince a person that someone cares.
And when someone cares, it can make life worth living.
So, man-on-the-bridge, like I said, I’m sorry.
I’m gonna try to do better.
Just know that sometimes, people don’t say something out of their own stuff, and you deserve better. And maybe, just maybe, someone will read this, and be braver than I was, and let you know how much you really do matter to them.
With very warm well wishes,