The Ritchies lived there for almost 50 years, and during that time, they prevented numerous people from jumping to their deaths—some say as many as 400. Every morning when Don woke up, he looked out to see if anyone was standing alone too close to the edge. If he thought they might be thinking about suicide, he would ease up to them with a smile and kindly ask if they’d like to talk about it over a cup of tea or breakfast. Once he even tackled someone to keep him from jumping.
Most people would have moved away many years before, but the Ritchies saw this as a calling on their lives. Moya remarked, “Isn’t it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?”
In 2010 the couple was named Citizens of the Year. They had already been recognized in 2006 by their government with a Medal of the Order of Australia, one of that nation’s highest honors presented to civilians.
Don, a retired insurance executive, believed that more were saved than lost because he reached out to them. Still, there were some who ignored his offers of help. One teen heard Don’s offer to come inside and talk, but jumped anyway—right in front of him. The wind blew the boy’s hat directly back into Don’s outstretched hand. The boy’s mother later brought the Ritchies flowers and thanked him for trying. She said, “If you couldn’t have talked him out of it, no one could.”
So much to learn from this story! Sometimes it requires more than a smile and a kind word to make a difference in someone’s life, but we have to try. We also live at the edge of a precipice, and there are people around us every day who are considering matters of life and eternity. Will we be the ones who reach out to them, offer them a hand of friendship, and listen to their burdens? We can’t save everyone or make a difference in every life, because some just will not choose to accept the help. But we still have to try.
The Ritchies believed they were called to this responsibility, that they had been placed in that particular spot for a reason. Do we not have the same calling? Has not God placed us here for a reason? If He has, we should be honest enough with ourselves before God to admit that His reason may not involve some of the things we do as a body of believers. There may be other, more aggressive things we can do to win people to Christ than we have been doing.
Don Ritchie died of cancer in May of 2012, at the age of 86, fully believing that someone else would come along to take his place. He once explained his actions by saying, “You can’t just sit there and watch them.”
Nor can we. Nor can we!
--Rocky Henriques, www.uticabc.com