A couple of days ago, there was an incident on the I 5 bridge in Portland. A man was positioned to jump. He had a knife pointed at his stomach and a cell phone. This I read in the newspaper. I first heard about the incident however, from a woman who had been attempting to get home and was caught in the massive traffic jam caused by this incident. She came to where I work to pick up her son. She was mildly indignant about the whole thing. She went to great length to describe the scene – the man on the bridge, the police cars lined all the way up the entrance ramp, the boats down below on the river and all the cars stuck. Hers being one of them.
I listened to her story, waiting to hear news of the man. Is he ok? Were they able to persuade him to be helped down? But her story didn’t include these details. Perhaps she just didn’t know, but her tone indicated that she could care a less. She was disturbed, not because a fellow human being was weighing out the decision to take his life, but because she had had to sit in traffic for an incredibly long time.
She ended her story by saying, “Really, why would someone do that at 3:35 in the afternoon, knowing traffic would get so backed up?!?!?”
That made me wonder what she would consider a good time, a convenient time, an unselfish time to end one’s own life.
She was clearly bothered by the whole thing. She is a busy woman and had many more important things to do than sit on that bridge. I’m not judging her, I wouldn’t like sitting on that bridge for 90 minutes either.
This reminds me of the story of the good Samaritan. You know the story – a man has fallen by the roadside. He had been beaten and robbed and left for dead. A Levite and a priest encounter him and move to the other side of the road and continue on towards their destination. Maybe they were ceremonially clean and didn’t want to get unclean, maybe they didn’t want to associate with a commoner or maybe they were concerned that there could be more robbers lurking behind bushes and they too would become victims. Whatever their reason, they offered no help and left the man.
Then the Good Samaritan came along and helped the man, bandaging his wounds and taking him to a safe place to get the help he needed to heal.
I would have liked to be on that bridge the other day and be able to walk up and down the rows of cars and listen to the conversations. How many people would be concerned for the man? How many would be seriously bent out of shape at being delayed for a time? Were some just passing the time on Facebook and Youtube and not giving the man any thought at all? Were any praying for him?
I’d like to think I would be more like the good Samaritan than that priest or that Levite or that woman from work in a similar situation. I’d like this to be true of me that even on the busiest of days, in my most selfish of moods, I’d like to think that if all I could do was put aside my frustration for a moment or set down my phone and pray for someone who has lost all hope, that I would do just that.
If you were stuck on that bridge because of a potential jumper, how do you think you would spend your time? I’d love to hear from you.
pic credit 1: Columbian.org
pic credit 2: lds.org
pic credit 3: tamedcynic.org
pic credit 4: carolecgood.com