A couple summers ago, an unsettling moment intruded upon a random delivery.
In a fading summer twilight, I was bringing pizza to the local emergency room (draped up in plastic amidst a remodel at the time). As I was walking in, I’d noticed a young guy sitting on the curb, head down, but thought little of it. As I came back out, I felt compelled to say hello to him – a risky move for an introvert like myself, but doubly so given this guy appeared to be in some distress.
Pay attention to those little urges to connect. They could shape eternity.
I drew near to this young man and hailed him. He didn’t answer, head bowed, face hidden. Upon drawing closer, I registered sniffling. I asked if he was all right; he again didn’t answer. I asked him his name; he gave it.
It was then that I noticed the iPod cord, twisted tight around his neck. He was pulling on it so hard that it was bruising his skin.
Alarmed, I told him that I was concerned and asked him to stop. He didn’t. I told him that if he continued, I’d have no choice but to notify the ER personnel. He said he didn’t care. I ran inside and announced the situation to the front desk, and they sprang into action; a tall, imposing male nurse quickly sprinted out to the guy carrying a pair of scissors. While that happened, I took my leave and returned to my car.
My thoughts were jarred for the rest of my shift, sinking with the sun. The fact that this young man chose to sit right outside an ER as he harmed himself suggested that he did not want to die, that he was really crying out for help. It wasn’t the way I would have chosen to ask. Then again, I have no idea what pain the man was going through, what his story was. Ans the saying goes, “Be kind; everyone you know is grieving.”
I have not heard news of the man since. I hope he got the help he needed.
Many people would have done what I had the opportunity to do. I just happened to be there because someone nearby ordered cheese and sauce.
What I hope is that, if you are struggling today and you just can’t regulate, if it’s searing to burst from your mouth or body, you will seek help. Seek it from God, who sent his son to navigate himself into a position of “not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). And seek it from the people he sends. There are countless people around you – even strangers – who will listen without judging.
May we all be such people.
You truly NEVER know the impact of seemingly small interactions like this. Once read where the Golden Gate Bridge is among the top spots for suicide (who knew). I then read that a letter was found on the bridge reading, among other things, “If one person smiles at me on the way to do this, I won’t jump.”
I’ve never forgotten that, and I hope I never do.