Angel at The Gap

Meet Don Richie. Don is 84 years old and recently received a bravery medal and the Order of Australia, the country’s second highest civilian honor. He got the award because he saves lives. Here’s his story.

About 40 years ago, Don and his wife, Moya, bought a house overlooking Sydney Harbor. It’s an area called, “The Gap,” and their dream home had stunning views of the cliffs and the water. What they didn’t know when they bought the house was that across the street was the spot from which at least 50 people a year committed suicide by jumping off the cliff’s edge to the rocks below.

Most people would have moved, but from the first day they arrived, Don decided to do something about it. Through his large picture window, he kept his eye on the area across the street. And if he saw someone lingering, he walked across the road, said hello, and offered them a cup of tea.

One morning, he saw a woman sitting on the edge of the cliff. “I quickly got dressed and went over. She had already put her handbag and shoes outside the fence, which is pretty common. They very often leave something behind.”

“I said to her, ‘Why don’t you come over and have a cup of tea?’ She came with me, and Moya made her breakfast. When she got home, she rang to say she was feeling much better. Two or three months later, she walked up the garden path with a magnum of French champagne.”

Over the years, he’s coaxed hundreds of people back from the edge with his invitation. But for some, his kind words were the last thing they heard. “I’m just trying to save a life,” he says. “I used to sell kitchen scales and bacon cutters. At the Gap, I’m trying to sell people life.” No wonder he’s known as the Angel at the Gap.

“Selling people life.” I love that phrase!

What if we all lived with that kind of generosity of heart? Spending our days, surveying the landscape with an eager vigilance, watching for those who linger at the brink, and inviting them over for tea…and the chance to live.


*The photo and quotes in this blog and the story about Don Richie comes from an article by Kathy Marks in the Christian Science Monitor 10/18/10

Henri, A Boat Builder Who Hates Water

Henri the painter is one of Steinbeck’s quirky characters in Cannery Row. He’s known for the unique and intricate boats he builds, often taking years to work on each one.

*Photo by Stephen A. Wolfe, Creative Commons

But there’s something odd about Henri. He never finishes a boat. When it’s almost completed, he takes it apart and begins anew, having no intention of ever putting the boat in the water. Two of his friends discuss his behavior:

“Every time he gets it nearly finished, he changes it and starts all over again. I think he’s nuts. Seven years on a boat!”

“You don’t understand. Henri loves boats, but he’s afraid of the ocean. He likes boats, but suppose he finishes his boat. Once it’s finished people will say, ‘Why don’t you put it in the water?’ Then if he puts it in the water, he’ll have to go out in it and he hates the water. So you see, he never finishes the boat – so he doesn’t ever have to launch it.”

Isn’t that what happens with so many of our dreams? We become afraid of what might happen if our dreams become a reality. The risk simply feels too great. And so we move through life, playing it safe. Rather than dealing with our fear of the water, we work on boats that we never plan to finish.

What is it that you’ve dreamed but never really pursued?

What has been simmering deep inside of you that you’ve not been attentive to?

What’s the boat you are building?

Perhaps it’s time to take that boat down to the water, launch it, and hoist the sails! The wind will take it from there.