Every now and again you find a story about somebody who changes the world. Someone who is unassuming and just doing what makes good sense. I’m not thinking here about leaders, who rally others to a better result. Rather, I am thinking about that lone person who changes everything.
Don Ritchie, known as the “Angel of the Gap” passed away today in Sydney. He was 85. If you don’t know his story, or about the “Gap” let me fill you in.
The “Gap” describes the opening to Sydney Harbor, it’s where he ocean and harbor meet. The heads, one north and the other south, consist of tall sandstone outcrops. At the heads you can stand atop a cliff and see far out into the Tasman Sea. It is breathtaking, unfortunately, it is also life-taking. Not uncommonly people travel to the “Gap” on the southern head to take their own life.
As reported on the Australian Broadcasting website Don Ritchie was an 85-year-old retired insurance salesman who has saved some 150 people from suicide. Ritchie’s house sits looking out on the spot where many have jumped to their demise. He would physically intervene, preventing would-be jumpers from going over the edge. He often led would-be victims to his home and offered them a cup of tea; a saving angel indeed.
Ritchie, a peaceworker by deed, claimed that “You can’t just sit there and watch them, I mean you’ve got to do something about it, anybody’s like that. It gives them the chance of changing their lives,” but I’m not too sure I entirely agree. I think it takes a special person with vigilance and readiness to action. This is as true in seeking to prevent those with inner-demons taking their own lives as it is in helping to prevent or stop violent conflict. More than anything I like Ritchie’s admonition, “you can’t just sit there and watch….” How true!