For nearly five hours, police have been attempting to talk a man down from his perch on a railing of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
I’ve been on this bridge at least a thousand times in my life, both literally and figuratively. I actually saw a man jump from one of our area bridges one morning when I was a teenager. We were coming home from some work in Philadelphia when a man stopped his car in front of us, got out, and jumped over the railing of the Walt Whitman Bridge. They dredged the Delaware River and found his body later that day.
I remember wondering what would drive someone to kill themselves. I faced many bouts of despair in my youth and I could not imagine the depths one needed to sink into in order to end his or her own life. Not only end their life, but do so in such a way that for seconds after they made the leap they knew there was no return, no chance for survival, and no remorse until they finally hit the water. It was dramatic in that they knew they were dead for seconds before they died. I often wondered what that man thought as he sailed through the air to his end.
Life would, invariably, provide me an insight into the very depths of despair I once questioned. Now I have some idea, and I am happy to have survived to know such a thing.
Today it appears a man has reached his limit. He is the face of countless others who, today, have reached their limit. Some will end their lives. Others will fake a smile at continue on. Still, others will seek comfort in alcohol or some other drug of choice. Yes, some will recognize their condition and make a choice to change it.
*Warning: Soapbox is out and I’m stepping on it. You have been warned!*
I know some who have said, “pray for this man.” I say, “To hell with the prayer” unless your prayer is one of action. Display compassion and love to everyone you meet. Empathize with them to the best of your ability. Don’t be so mindless and unconscious in your daily interactions with others. Work to come from a place of service and offer whatever you can of yourself to others in the best way you can.
I wonder how many people interacted with this man before he decided to sit on the ledge, and I wonder if even one random act of compassion could have kept him from it. Even if it did so for just another day.
I believe as a culture we have to either change the definition of prayer or stop praying.
Well because we seem to rely on some self-serving idea that talking to whatever we talk to is somehow us doing our part for humanity. Imagine if Mother Teresa adopted this attitude and simply muttered a few phrases to her God for the poor and hungry. Imagine if Gandhi had simply uttered a few phrases to his God for the independence and equality of his people. Imagine if Martin Luther King, Jr. had simply closed his eyes as asked his God for equality of the races.
Imagine if Jesus himself did nothing but spew off a few sentences about saving mankind from sin. Imagine if Moses simply recited some proverb about freedom for the Israelites. Imagine if Buddha had just “prayed” for enlightenment. Imagine the gifts this world would have never seen.
Honestly, prayer to me is more about walking and less about talking. Rather than utter a “Dear Lord, please feed the hungry” why not simply feed the hungry? Which is the more effective prayer, the talking or the doing?
If I want world peace, how about I be peaceful? Does it not make sense that this glorious universe we experience communicates much more efficiently in action then it ever could in words? If the story in Genesis is true, did God actually utter those words, or did He do those words? Did He create the universe or talk about it?
I certainly understand that the feeling behind the prayer is important. I understand that we send out a vibration in our prayerful intention. Yet, I see a much better statement of intention can be found in our action. Yes, a hug is better than a prayer of love to me. In fact, a hug is probably the most effective prayer of love we can utter for all of humanity. Give hugs, not words. That should be our new mantra.
Or, at least it should be mine. I can’t tell you what to make yours. And so it is.
OK, so my rant is nearly over. I will send out prayerful intentions of love, peace, harmony and hope to this man. I will also make it more of my daily work to say many “prayers” each and every day that involve absolutely no words whatsoever. Who knows, that anonymous stranger I share myself with along my daily journey may be heading for a bridge of their own somewhere. Maybe my prayer reaches them before they get there. Maybe theirs soothes me before I reach mine.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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