This story about a man in Belgrade, Serbia has been making the rounds on the internet and in newspapers. I first saw the story in the Star Tribune while having a cup of coffee. I found this article to be a little more in depth and informative however.
What strikes me about the story is the first time the man saved someone it was purely by chance but since then it has taken more focused effort. He is now aware that people may want to jump from this particular bridge and so he is constantly watching for people trying to commit suicide while still going about his daily life. He does what he can by being aware and responding to situations when they arise. He asks for nothing in return and just wishes to give people a second chance at life.
How similar is this to those of us in the helping professions? We often get started in our field by simply being present for some situation and then we become aware of similar situations all around us. We start to become acquainted with what to look for and the next thing you know we are trying to gather as much information about people in these situations as we possibly can. We become finely attuned to the warning signs and then hopefully we act. I say hopefully because I know not all situations smack us in the way that hearing someone scream and thrash about in a cold river might compel us to act. I know that I need to keep my eyes on the landscapes around me so I am more aware and ready to act the next time I am faced with an opportunity to help someone.
My encouragement to be ever more vigilant is also tempered with the reality that we cannot be present or available at every moment someone might need. This man in Belgrade could only save about half the people who had jumped. We cannot beat ourselves up over the ones we could not help but only celebrate with the ones we can help. Only we need to make sure we don’t expect or need to be thanked for our efforts. We can simply take joy in knowing we have done what we can to the best of our abilities and in light of the opportunities presented to us.