Monday, June 14, 2010

Watchman Saves Lives At Popular Suicide Spot

This story from Australia intrigued me:

A former life insurance salesman has "sold life" to scores of people trying to end it all at Australia's most notorious suicide spot.

In nearly 50 years Don Ritchie, 84, has saved at least 160 people at The Gap, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour - and he is still on suicide watch.

Lost souls who stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, say their salvation was a soft voice breaking the sound of the wind and the waves, asking: "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?"

And when they turned to the stranger, they say his smile made them want to live.

Mr Ritchie, who lives across the street
from The Gap, is widely regarded as a guardian angel who has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Mr Ritchie considers a gift.

"You can't just sit there and watch them," he said, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside.

"You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple."

Since the 1800s, Australians have flocked to The Gap to end their lives, with little more than a 3ft fence separating them from the edge. Local officials say around one person a week commits suicide there and in January, Woollahra Council applied for nearly £1.2 million government funding to build a higher fence and tighten security.

In the meantime, Mr Ritchie keeps up his voluntary watch. The council recently named him and his wife of 58 years, Moya, 2010's Citizens of the Year.

He has saved 160 people, according to the official tally, but that is only an estimate. Mr Ritchie does not keep count but says he has watched far more walk away from the edge than go over it.

Chesed, the quality of kindness is a strange but impressive magic. It apparently works on someone like Don Ritchie to put himself out for his fellow human beings when others might walk away or flee, and that same quality makes a number of them respond to him.

Apparently it almost cost him his own life once, and there's was famous picture in the Australian press showing Don Ritchie in his younger years struggling with a woman trying to throw herself over the side, only inches from the precipice.

Ritchie claims he never tries to counsel people or give advice, but to merely give someone at the end of their rope a little warmth and human kindness to bring them back from the brink.

Sometimes, that's all it takes.


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B.Poster said...

This man is a true hero!! I'm not sure how he does it. When someone wants to commit suicide, often times there will be nothing that can be said to talk them out of it. I'm sure he's seen a few people take their lives in his day. This has got to be incredibly disheartening yet he continues to try to save them.

After you fail to get through a few times, it would probably be very easy to become discouraged and either quit trying or move to another location where you don't have to witness this. Yet this man keeps on trying.

May God richly bless this man and hsi family. I wish there were more people like him in this world.

Anonymous said...

May God bless Mr Ritchie. Although I too am suicidal, as good as he is, I don't think I can be dissuaded. I am only living for the sake of my parents, whom I cannot bear to see in devastation.

Once they pass, so will I.

Mr Ritchie, I truly wish there were more kind souls like you in this world. May God bless you and your loved ones for ever - thanks for being a kind man, but this world is not kind.

Rob said...

Hello Anonymous,
I hope you see what I'm about to write.

I understand how overwhelmed you feel,and I understand your kindness to your parents in not wanting to see them in despair.There's nothing sadder fo ra parent than to have to bury a beloved child. I urge you to also think of the sadness you will invoke in your heavenly Father as well if you voluntarily toss away the great gift of life He gave you.

Life can be devastating at times, and yes, human beings can be exceptionally cruel to their fellow creatures. They can also be exceptionally kind.It is that kindness which brings light to the world.

Ultimately, the true meaning of life is found in that kindness, in doing for others,in helping to ease their burden, just as you are doing for your parents. No matter how sad, lonely and afraid you are,there are others even more so, and they likewise need your help, strange as it seems. Simply by getting up each morning and facing what adversity you have in life with courage and good cheer, simply by performing small, random acts of courtesy and kindness to others we do more good than we can imagine in helping others to likewise face the day and the challenges life brings us.There is more joy and fulfillment in that than I think you realize.

If you should happen to read this, leave another comment with your name and e-mail attached so we can discuss this further.

You are an important person, and your life is more precious than perhaps you realize.