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If you have ever been in San Francisco with a little time on your hands, you’ve prob’ly thought about walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Well, just such was the case for me a few years back. I was in San Francisco on a business trip and had a free morning to do a little sightseeing. I put in to walk across the famed bridge that no less than 11 men died building and countless others have used to commit suicide since 1937 (an estimated 1600 suicides). Walkin’ ‘cross the bridge was somethin’ I just wanted to be able to say I had done.
I left the downtown warf area near the Embarkadia around 8:30 in the morning. I set a pretty brisk pace as I trekked up to bridge. I really didn’t want to take the whole mornin’ doin’ it.
Not far into the trek, I met up with an older, taller, and rather lean gentleman (meaning – he was in good shape for his age) with whom I struck up conversation as we walked. He was from San Francisco and started tellin’ me all kinds of interestin’ facts about the city and how it had earned it’s name, “The City of Angels.” As we traveled, up hill and dale, I really started to appreciate the fact that he could walk so fast and still keep a talkin’.
The mornin’ was heating up pretty quick as we approached the midway point across the bridge. We were on the east side headed north of course. When suddenly, this very intelligent man stopped — looked across toward the city, pointed to get me to look, and said, “you know….. every person who has ever jumped off this bridge, has jumped off here – looking toward the city.”
Now, at this point… a whole lotta things are goin’ through my mind.
Once, in college… my buddy Alf …. no, no, Alf wasn’t his real name… Alf was an acronym for – Alcholic Leader of Florida – Well, Alf and I saved a guy who jumped head first off the third floor balcony of our apartment building… managing to haul him back from the precipice despite our inebriation. Then we stayed up with him until he finally passed out. Ahhh but, that’s another story.
The point is, I really didn’t want to save anybody that day. Been there, done that. So, when this guy starts talkin’ bout people jumpin’, all sorts of things start racin’ through my mind.
This gentleman has my full attention now. His next words are, “When you look out toward the city, what do you see?” To myself I have to say, “Beautiful.” Then he repeats it aloud for me to hear, “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” And, he was right. The city was magnificent. No matter what happens now, he has me in the moment. Nothing else matters as I stand mesmerized looking at The City of Angels.
“Turn around,” he says. Then continuing, “look out toward the sea… how do you feel now?” The simple answer, hopeless. Looking west out toward the desolate vastness and emptiness of the sea —- with a low fog hangin’ about — made one feel small, alone, empty, and hopeless.
No, he didn’t jump. But, he drove home a point that few will ever really understand.
We all desire hope, beauty, and spirituality in our lives. Those jumping from the bridge, looking toward the “City of Angels” — are just looking for it in the wrong place.
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