How an Invitation to Tea Curbed a Slew of Suicide Attempts

Al Andrews

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 a cliff  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.

-Al Andrews

*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 – October 18, 2010

Al Andrews

Al Andrews

This is a post by Al Andrews, one of the Storyline Contributors. Pick up a copy of his latest book, A Walk One Winter Night on Amazon and make sure to follow along on Twitter (@itsalandrews) for regular updates. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.