This I Believe

Victoria - Trenton, New Jersey
Entered on December 29, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

As a young elementary school student, I remember hearing a teacher at school tell some older students a story about a man in San Francisco who decided to walk from his San Francisco home to the Golden Gates Bridge. He had decided that he would begin walking, and if one person smiled at him or said hello, he would turn around and go home. If he made it to the bridge, however, without a hello or a smile, he would jump off the bridge and kill himself. Before leaving his home, he had written a suicide note, explaining his plans. The man jumped off the bridge. I remember hearing the story and thinking, “How could people be so clueless? How could not one person in such a busy city not smile or say hello to the man?” The story stuck with me for some time, but due to the everyday hustle and bustle of childhood, it began to fade in my memory.

The story came back to me a few years later. While at a local minor league baseball game with a summer camp group, it began to rain so strongly that the game was delayed and tarps had to be brought out to cover the field. At this point many people left and the people who remained at the game got up from their seats in hopes of finding protection from the downpour. I remember looking out at the empty seats, and seeing one man sitting alone in the rain with a beaten up black rain coat covering his large body. The scene cut a hole into young heart. The image of the man alone in the rain made me overwhelmingly sad. I ran out into the rain towards the man. Soaked, I walked up to him and asked why he was sitting alone in the rain. He slowly looked up to me, and didn’t say anything. After a few seconds, he slowly smiled. At this point, a feeling of fear over took me and I ran back up towards shelter in search of my companions. Afterwards, however, I thought of the man and was happy. Even though the man continued to sit in the cold rain by himself, I felt as if I had accomplished something. I felt as if I had given attention and remembered someone who was alone, someone who was forgotten.

Years later, the image of the man’s face still stays with me, as does the story of the man who jumped off the Golden Gates Bridge. It has helped to shape my beliefs. It has made me realize one of my strongest beliefs, my belief in remembering the forgotten, the overlooked and the ones who are not remembered. Whenever I feel like my life is out of my control, I remember the stories and remind myself that even if my life seems unorganized, I can contribute to others finding peace of mind within their lives through a simple smile or hello.