The young man teetered on the edge.
In anguish, he hung his toes over the precipice and stared blankly at the grey windswept ocean far below. It was all just too much. He’d tried his best and failed again and again. There was nothing left to do but end it all, right here, right now. He took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes tightly shut and …
“Hey there young fella, fancy a cuppa tea?”
A crackly old voice broke through his clouded mind at the exact moment he was about to leap. He paused, just long enough, and looked around with tear-filled eyes. There, not 10 metres behind was an elderly bald man with a kind face and a mug of steaming tea in his hand.
“Let’s have a nice chat before you do anything silly,” the old man called out.
“I … I just want to be alone,” the young man sniffed back the tears.
“Come on mate, a problem shared is a problem halved. I live just over there. My wife will put on the kettle and we can talk about what’s troubling you.”
The young man hesitated, still perched on the edge of the cliff. This wasn’t what he had planned at all. But then again, nothing in his life had gone to plan lately. He looked again at the old man … and slowly nodded.
The old man was Don Ritchie, a retired life insurance salesman and a hero in every sense of the word. Armed with nothing but a cup of tea and the guts to speak up, he has coaxed literally hundreds of people away from the brink of death and was recently awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his actions.
Don, who passed away in May this year at the age of 85, lived in a house next to the notorious Sydney cliff known as The Gap where countless people have committed suicide over the decades. For the past 45 years, Don took it upon himself to intervene whenever he saw someone hovering too close to the edge.
“It’s amazing how a smile and a positive word can help someone who feels like they are at their end,” Don told me recently in interviewing him for this book. “They reckon we’ve saved 160 people but it was probably many more. I win more than I lose.”
“We invite them in for a cup of tea at our place where my wife and I have a chat and help them as much as we can. Many times they come back later on with a card or even a bottle of champagne to say thanks and let us know that they are doing well.”
In talking to Don, I was struck that such a simple thing – a cup of tea and a few minutes refocusing with a positive person – could help so many desperate individuals get back on track. Those who found a way to keep going despite their failures, eventually succeeded.
Like the despairing souls hovering on the edge of The Gap, there are defining moments in our lives that make an everlasting difference to our lives. These are those moments of clarity that impact us personally and define our purpose – moments when we look back and realised that was when all else had failed, we started to succeed.
This is one of my favourite passages from David Khalil’s book “When All Else Fails, Succeed” which I helped him write earlier this year. It is available on Amazon for Kindle Readers here: http://amzn.com/B007RCPY0A
My first novel 'The Deep Enders' released 2016. Available on Amazon and in print.