The day was almost over. Only fifteen minutes more, I thought as I drove across the bridge on my way back to the police station. The water in the river looked so peaceful and tranquil as I looked out over the railing toward the setting sun. Then I saw a man standing outside the railing, his head barely noticeable above the road’s surface. I stopped, called in my observation to the station, and walked over to the railing.
“Don’t come any closer,” warned the young man, who was holding on to the bridge framework. Our eyes met, and I knew what he was contemplating—and he knew that I knew. I sensed that it wouldn’t take much for him to let go.
What could I say to prevent this man in such despair from ending his life? Memories of my police training raced through my mind: Take your time. Keep him talking. Don’t get him excited. I was afraid that if I did anything wrong, this man might actually kill himself. What should I do?
I began as simply as I could—to stall for time. “Hi. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I said in as calm and matter-of-fact a voice as I could command.
I felt some relief when he answered calmly, “I don’t think so.”
Maybe time would be on my side, I thought. “My name is Gary. What’s yours?” I said.
“Steve,” he answered. “Why do you want to know?”
In those few seconds, I thought of every success and failure I had ever experienced in human communication, and I also thought about how precious life was. Only a few seconds passed, but they seemed like an eternity. In my mind, I asked Heavenly Father for strength and guidance. I immediately felt a sweet, calming reassurance. Why can’t Steve feel that same reassurance? I thought. I know of no better way to convince a person of the value of life than to testify of the divine truths that give us a reason to live. So I began. “I’d like to be your friend, Steve. I’d like to help.”
“You can’t help. No one can,” he replied.
“I don’t believe that, Steve. Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you mean” he asked timidly.
“Are you married?”
“Any children?” I continued.
Steve began telling me about his five-year-old daughter, but stopped as soon as some of my backup officers arrived. “Who are they?” Steve asked, his voice again on edge.
I motioned for the officers to stay back. “They’re some of my friends,” I told Steve. “They’re concerned about you, too.”
“Don’t let them come any closer,” he said.
“Don’t worry—I won’t,” I answered, relieved.
Steve and I continued to talk. He still hung on to the outside of the bridge; I sat on the curb about six feet away. We talked about his family and his career as a technician with a successful computer firm. It sounded to me as if he had everything going for him. I searched for things to say, hoping to discover the root of the problem, and yet praying that in doing so, I would not make him panic and try to jump.
I knew the other officers were trying to get into a position to help, yet I had the feeling that Steve and I would be standing together shaking hands before too long—as long as I could keep him talking. I hoped that it was the Spirit making me feel that way. So, with renewed vigor, I ventured on more bravely. “Steve, from what I’ve been hearing, I just don’t understand why you’re standing on that side of the bridge.”
“There’s some things I don’t understand, either,” replied Steve. “I don’t understand why you seem to care so much.” He paused, then stammered, “I—I—I feel like I’m talking to a minister. I feel like I want to tell you things I can’t even talk to my wife about. Why?”
I prayed as I listened, and the Spirit guided me as I talked. I felt such joy as I felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost in such an important matter. “Do you believe in God?” I asked.
“I think so. I’d like to believe there’s a God,” he replied.
“There is, Steve. I know with every fiber of my being. God lives, and he loves you and me. He has a grand and glorious purpose for us in this life.”
“How do you know all this?” he asked.
I stood up and reached toward him. Steve reached out, took my hand, and climbed back over the railing. We shook hands.
“It’s not hard to know,” I said. “Would you like to know more about God?”
“Yes, I really would,” he said, then hesitated and added, “Gary.”
I had helped save Steve’s life; but even more important, I had begun to share my testimony with him that life has a purpose and that God loves and cares about each one of us. It was this knowledge that gave him something to live for.