“I’m walking to the bridge,”
begins a Golden Gate Bridge suicide note.
“If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”
~cited by Thomas Joiner, author of Why People Die by Suicide
I believe our greatest need is to know we have value. The most basic part of knowing we have value is being seen, having our existence acknowledged. The citation above in a Time magazine article several years ago has stuck with me because it expresses this need and the consequences when that need isn’t fulfilled. Ever since reading the article, I’ve gone out of my way to smile at strangers. I tried to remember it today when working with a bank teller.
I have no idea what that person had to deal with before I walked in the door or what is happening in their personal life. I know they were as frustrated as I was with the slowness of the computer system. We both had better things to do with our time. Or did we? Isn’t the point of living to connect with other living beings and to make life a little nicer—especially through the inconveniences? To at least acknowledge that we’re both in this together instead of taking the situation personally, as if they were trying to make my day more difficult?
I admit that sometimes I do take situations personally and sometimes I get caught up in my own agenda. I fail to see the other person. But all it takes is looking up and smiling. It makes me feel better; hopefully, it makes the other person feel seen, and it may even save a life.