I pulled into the line of stopped traffic headed for the bridge. I glanced at my watch: 4:53 pm. Rush hour, but it’s never like this. I could see the bridge in the distance up ahead and to my right. There was no traffic on it, and lights were flashing at the far end. Not a good sign.
Somebody jumped, I thought.
The bridge is almost two miles long, crossing a vast estuary that empties into the North Sea. The view is spectacular when driving across from the city — rolling green hills up ahead, spotted with cows freely grazing. Brilliant sunlight reflects off the water on a clear day. When it’s stormy, clouds hang low in the sky, with fierce winds whipping up white caps on the water. No matter what the weather, the miles of open water are breathtaking. It’s rugged and wild — Scotland at its best.
The problem is suicidal people jump off the bridge.
I couldn’t get home, so I drove to the nearby grill to wait until the bridge opened up. I sat down, monitoring the bridge website for updates, and ordered a beer and some food.
I thought about the bridge. I thought about the person or persons who jumped. I thought about the impact of the lockdown on mental health for the past 18 months, particularly those living in poverty. The suicide rate in this group is 3.5 times higher than those living in better conditions.
I sat there drinking my cold beer, eating comfort food, while somebody just jumped off a bridge. They knew what was going to happen. They were done with trying to live, for whatever reason. Life had lost all meaning. And I’m dipping my vegetable tempura into red pepper sauce. Just doesn’t seem right.
I’ve been depressed but not suicidal. I can’t even imagine how bad it gets. But I sat there feeling fucking miserable that a person, most likely a male in their twenties or thirties, according to statistics, had just taken their life.
Is this what’s come to? Surely we can do better than this.
My heart was sick.
I couldn’t help but think about the great divide between rich and poor.
So what do we do? What do I do? What do you do?
We do the best we can in our respective communities. We do the best we can to live our life with purpose and kindness. We do what we can to help those less fortunate than we are. We appreciate what we do have, not what we don’t have.
My friend Michael Thompson just wrote a beautiful article about the wisdom he gleaned from a children’s book. Here’s the part that got me.
A mole asks a young boy, “Is your glass half empty or half full?” The boy replied, “I think I’m grateful to have a glass.”
After two hours, the bridge opened. I finished my beer, dried my tears with a napkin, paid my bill, said goodnight to the owner, and got in my car.
I drove across the bridge. It was almost dark out by this time. A light wind was blowing, making frothy, angry-looking white caps on the river.
I think I’m grateful I made it home last night.
Some people didn’t.