Two weeks ago I was listening to a story shared by one of the teachers in teen class that I just haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It’s the story of a young girl on the brink of ending her life, walking to her destiny of death, ready to pull the plug and say “I am finished”…
She was a typical teenager who sought to find satisfaction and purpose for her life through worldly means. I’m sure she had hopes and dreams as we all do growing up. But those hopes and dreams quickly shattered the deeper she sank into sin. The further she slipped away into the world.
She tried to find pleasure in drugs. But the momentary high left her feeling even more empty and alone. She turned to prostitution to make money to purchase those drugs. This left her feeling broken, used, and even more alone. She sought excitement through partying and friends, but living for night life slowly drained out any real purpose and joy in life. And eventually it brought her to an end at the young age of 18. She experienced it all in life. And she didn’t want to experience it anymore. Left homeless on the streets. Poor. Broken. Alone. With no desire to wake up the next day.
One morning she decided that this would be the day. The day she would end her misery. The day she would finally be free from her pain and suffering. The day she would die.
Her plan was to walk onto the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off.
So she began her walk toward death. Passing by crowds of people that were too ashamed to look into her eyes. People that made sure to make their way around her. People in a rush with somewhere to go who didn’t look twice at the young, broken girl walking past them. And the people that did look at her looked at her with pity and disgust. But she didn’t care anymore. She kept on walking forward. Eyes down. Avoiding the glances of the people passing by. Focused on what was in front of her: the bridge where it would all finally end.
As she kept on walking… she accidentally looked up to see a young man who looked straight into her eyes… and smiled. It was for just a mere second. He never stopped to say anything. He kept on walking to wherever he needed to go. But that smile was enough for her. Because finally one person had looked at her. One person in the crowd of hundreds didn’t judge her by her outward appearance and look at her with disgust. One person looked beyond the broken and hopeless girl and saw someone… who was worth a smile.
That smile was enough for her. Enough to make her turn around and walk away from that bridge. Enough for her to have hope that there was a purpose for her life. That there were people out there just like this man who would look beyond her past and current condition and help her create a better future for herself.
That smile brought her to the nearest church in the area where she found God and a reason to wake up the next morning… and every morning after that. She was no longer a hopeless, lost child with nothing to look forward to but death. She was now a precious child of God who had great hope for her future and the life God prepared for her.
She lived many more years… got married… had over 60 grandchildren… served God faithfully. And I’m sure during those many years she shared this story often… the story of how one smile… changed her whole life.
I absolutely love this story. But more than the story itself… I love the lesson that can be learned from it: one smile can make a difference. Did this man know he changed a life, literally? He stopped a young girl from committing suicide? Probably not. He was just walking by… passing people and smiling at the ones he happened to come across, not thinking twice about it.
This story made me think about the people I pass every day. The people I always run into. People I know. People I don’t know. People I care about. People I may not care too much about. Do I stop and smile at them or do I just pass them by without a second glance? It’s true… everyone is facing some kind of battle every day of their lives. Sometimes the battle is hard… sometimes it’s not too bad. But there’s always a battle. And it doesn’t hurt to be the kind of person who chooses to be nice to people, to go out of your way to smile at them, to hug them… because you never know the pain they may be hiding, the challenges that they face, the issues they are dealing with and your hug, your smile, your “hi” can make all the difference.
Maybe it won’t “save” their life, like in this girls story. But it will make a difference. I know I’ve had my days when the battle was harder… when life was tougher… when things were dark… and sometimes the most encouraging thing during that moment was just having a person stop for a few seconds to show that they cared. A person who gave me a hug. Who asked me how I was doing. Who prayed for me. And to them it was probably not that big of a deal. But to me it was. It helped me keep on looking forward… and staying encouraged during my hard time.
Today… my challenge is for me and for you. Let’s be the kind of people who take time to care for others. Who choose to stop for a second to smile at a stranger. Who gives that someone a hug. You never know… it could save a life. 🙂
[Image creator unknown. Please respond if you know the author so credit can be given.]