I sat down for dinner in a crowded restaurant, practically shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers at other tables. It was not hard to overhear conversations about how everyone survived their work week, but one woman’s conversation especially stood out. She was telling someone on her cellphone how it would be easier if she just ended it all. Others in the restaurant were sneaking glances her way, whispering to one another. She got up to leave, and I hesitated – she’s probably OK, right? I don’t want to be nosy. But I knew that I couldn’t let her leave without finding out for myself. I knew better than the other looky-loos around us – our fear of being nosy, of asking a complete stranger if they are OK, could save lives.
So I followed her out. She was just opening her car door, almost gone from our brief overlap forever, when I found her in the parking lot. “Excuse me? Are you alright?” was how it started. She looked startled and confused. I explained “I was sitting next to you in there, and overheard you say some things that made me concerned. I lost my brother to suicide, and I want you to know that you are not alone.” She immediately deflated, almost like she was relieved to unload her burden. She cried, told me about her struggles with her family and how it was just about all that she could take anymore. I told her, “I may not know you, but I know that this world will not be a better place without you in it.” We hugged, and talked more about the people in her life and about her faith in God. “Do you feel like you have someone to talk to?” No. I told her about the suicide prevention hotline number, and how you don’t have to be in a crisis to call. “You can call whenever you need to talk.”
Sometimes being nosy is necessary. She was thankful for my concern, and I hope this story shows you that we all have responsibility to look out for one another, even strangers. I hope you will be encouraged to act and not stand by, to ask and not assume. We are not alone.