While I hesitate to begin this entry this way I want to assure you that this is not a message about death but about kindness.
This past week while I was looking over various articles and posts I found an articles that discussed the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s unofficial title of “Suicide Bridge”.
It went on to read that it is the most popular bridge in the world off which people decide to jump to end their lives. Since its opening about 1500 suicides, 1 every two weeks, have been recorded. It is suspected that the official number is more but because some bodies are found too far away or washed into the ocean with no letters the point of origin can not accurately be determined. This number also does not include the 1 in 50 attempts that do not end in death but most surely tragic.
As shocking as I found this information what really struck me about the whole story was that there were at least two individuals whose suicides might have been prevented by a small display of kindness.
In the suicide letter found at one individual’s home it stated that if one person would just smile at him on his walk to the bridge he would turn around and go home. The other individual wrote in the letter found in his backpack on the bridge that if one person had just stopped to ask him why he sat on the bridge crying he would have told them and not jumped.
Who is to know if these letters demonstrated their actual motives? I have to believe that there was some truth to these admissions with no other evidence contraindicate. These were very confused souls searching for an answer and some human connection. A smile and a moment of someone’s time.
While smiling comes easily to me, I have also seen first hand the power a smile can have over an intense situation. Now I wonder, could my smile make the most important difference between life and death for someone, even if I may never see them again?
There are numerous studies that explain the positive effects smiles have on the giver and recipient. As the giver, a person who smiles more than 20 times a day and more genuinely tends to live longer, healthier, happier, and a more productive life than someone who does not. Smiling has a mirroring effect. When one human smiles at another it is a reflex for most individuals to smile back. So while you are bettering your life you are also improving a fellow human life. One of the most important things to remember besides all this wonderful edifying news is that it can all be done for free and takes no time.
A smile is so simple to give but giving a moment of your time may not always seem to be the easiest thing to do. It may be difficult to think that lending an ear for a moment in time could be a sufficient act to save a life?
A moment of compassion, to recognize suffering and to understand that I am part of the suffering also, to extend that loving kindness as you would to yourself is an amazing act. In order for someone to learn compassion their seed must be cultivated with the light and water of another human’s compassion. When someone’s seed of compassion lies dormant in the mud they miss out on opportunities to create more meaningful and lasting neural connections, and life bringing enhancements to their immune system. Compassion for oneself or another human also combats the feelings of self pity and fear. This, to me, demonstrates how important and essential it is for me to be aware and how I should offer a moment of my time to my fellow humans.
While I do not live where there is anything quite like the Golden Gate bridge I understand that the location does not drive the intention. I think I will look at my human brothers and sisters a bit differently today. I will be more present with a little less effort than yesterday. I will be the person you see smiling for what appears to be no reason. If I see you and recognize your suffering my heart and ears will be open for you.
As much as I want the superpower of flying today I think I will settle on smiling and listening. I will probably save more lives with these two than flying anyway.
May you be happy today.