“If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.” JOY and YOU.

I saw this at ITS TACTICAL but I think it comes from the always interesting The Art of Manliness:

It’s the 1970s. A 30-something man makes his way across the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s passed by pedestrians and cyclists, and steps around tourists taking pictures of Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the channel of water below that runs between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. He gazes up at the reddish-orange towers soaring above, and then climbs over the bridge’s four-foot safety railing. He steps out onto a 32-inch wide beam known as “the chord,” pauses, takes one last long look out at the bay, and then jumps. His body plummets 220 feet and violently hits the water at 75 mph. The impact breaks his ribs, snaps his vertebrae, and pulverizes his internal organs and brain. The Coast Guard soon arrives to recover his limp, lifeless body.

When the medical examiner later located and searched the jumper’s sparse apartment, he found a note the man had written and left on his bureau. It read:

“I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”


Food for thought, folks.

I am reminded that Joy – Gaudium or Chara – is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think we have to walk around grinning like idiots.  After all, risus abundant in ore stultorum, and that goes for grins, too, and not just laughter.  You just don’t know what may be the impact of small gestures of basic human kindness.

There is a lot more in that entry, which you can read there.   And while you are there, check out the previous entry which shows you how to Samurai armor knots – Agemaki or Dragonfly knots – on your own MOLLE plate carrier!  Step by step instructions with video.  Rather cool.

I wonder if I could get a cassock with MOLLE … hmmmm…. maybe a black plate carrier over the cassock?  MOLLE biretta?  No… not practical.  Still…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    When I pass someone in the hall at work, I always try to at least offer a “Good Morning” or a “Good Afternoon”, in order to make the corporate jungle just a little less unfriendly. God knows the people in this building are so wrapped up into themselves that you hardly ever see anyone smile.

    I feel badly for that woman who worked at the bank for so many years, who was fired last week for saying “God Bless” to someone who got offended. I think it’s coming to the point where someday, I’ll offer someone a “Good Morning” and I’ll get a “What do you mean by that?” back.

  2. Gerard Plourde says:

    Thanks for the important reminder. A smile and a “Hello” to those we meet is a recognition of our common status as Children of God, made in His Image. It may not be formal prayer but expressing the sentiment is a way of praising the Creator and His Works.

  3. akp1 says:

    I am a ‘smiler’ can’t help it! Once I was out collecting money for a charity – what we call a flag day – shaking a tin and if you donate you get a sticker – one lady had walked past and came back a moment later saying it was because I’d smiled at her!

  4. juventutemDC says:

    We couldn’t agree with you more, Father Z!

    Extraordinary Joy + Extraordinary Youth + Extraordinary Form !

    That’s what Juventutem’s all about! (Also, who wants to be cranky like a nun on the bus?)

  5. acardnal says:

    As the late, great Jimmy Durante sang it….


  6. lelnet says:

    I was more fortunate. Even though my determination to commit suicide left no room for “if”, I was saved anyway. (It should surprise none of the sort of people who follow this blog to learn that the immediate circumstance of my Earthly salvation turned out to be a Catholic Mass. But it’s a pretty fair bet that a meaningful fraction of the thousands of people in the months leading up to that day who were too contemptuous to even look me in the eye were also, like myself, Catholics.)

    We can do so much, so easily, to reflect God’s love in this world to our fellow man, and without even knowing it. We should be conscious of this, and strive to do better at it than we typically do. Even for me, knowing what I know about how much such simple things can make a difference, it is sometimes a struggle to be mindful of it. But it’s a struggle that’s worth it.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    lelnet, I thank God and wish I could thank him a million times, that you’re here. Fr. Z., the story is heartbreaking but a good reminder. Imagine that. God rest his poor tortured soul.

  8. kateriwriter says:

    I am interning in Washington, D.C. this summer and have spent most of my life in the area. I am blessed to attend a college in a midwestern town where it is standard to smile and greet strangers on the street. In the D.C. area, however, it is not uncommon to get strange looks when attempts at such tiny courtesies are made. It is a very depressing, dehumanizing atmosphere in which to live. Unfortunately it is also the mindset of a large portion of the culture.

  9. mysticalrose says:

    We should foster not only joy, but genuine concern for those around us. God only knows how many people we encounter daily who are grappling with hopelessness. Smiles are great, but for those who are closer to us, maybe we should come right out and ask them if all is well.

  10. Cafea Fruor says:

    @kateriwriter: I, too, live in the DC area, and I know exactly what you mean. I walk everywhere because I don’t have a car, and I can’t count the times I’ve said, “Good morning!” to someone as we pass each other, only to receive funny looks or a barely-audible, “Murn…”

    Actually, most of the time, the other person passing doesn’t even look at me. It’s very sad. Usually, the only people who aren’t taken aback and who actually look at me and return the greeting are those who’ve immigrated from Mexico and all countries south of it. Their cultures back home are overall much warmer and friendlier than we have in our typical East Coast city here in the States, so they are already used to it. Typically, i.e. about 85% of the time, the guys from Central and South America are also the only ones who offer to give me their seat on the bus or hold a door open for me. We could use a lot more of that in the States, too. Even if I’ve been sitting at my desk all day and would rather stand on the bus, I warmly accept all offers on behalf of womankind! :)

  11. Rachel Pineda says:

    I liked this quote from the writer George Saunders, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
    Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

    I have been on the receiving end of that mild and reserved sensibility. It stings to the core. Nonetheless, it is a good reminder not to do that myself. What I perceive as an imprudent foolishness may be a clumsy and unpracticed attempt at virtue.

  12. lsclerkin says:

    I read this years ago.
    It’s stayed in my mind ever dine.
    I have smiled at every single passerby with whom I make eye contact ever since.
    On purpose.
    Thinking of this poor soul and that the person passing me might need the same thing.
    It’s so easy.

  13. APX says:

    This is why even if we aren’t particularly fond of the sign of peace, we should still respectfully participate in it lest our bitterness be misconstrued, or it could be the only real human interaction a person has all day.

    When I was still in college, when I was feeling particularly down in the dumps I used to drive to this little Mormon town that wasn’t too far away. Why? Because everyone there was so friendly and if you drove past them, they would wave at you…with all five fingers to boot! I used to return home in a much better mood (also probably why I almost became Mormon in college).

  14. Pingback: What Good Shall I Do This Day? | Fr Stephen Smuts

  15. Lin says:

    This is the first time that I’ve heard this story! How heartbreaking that someone should die for lack of a smile. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I tend to smile at everyone I come in contact with, friend or stranger. I find it amazing how often people (mostly strangers) do not respond with a friendly smile in return. How very sad! There is so very little true joy in most people.

  16. Reconverted Idiot says:

    It seems I’m unconsciously smiling a lot lately. After staying at a friends house recently they remarked that it was the first time they’d seen someone who smiled in their sleep (all I recall from that night was broken sleep, and an incredibly weird anxiety dream which had little cause for smiles in it).

    The latest choice moment came just two days ago. As I was walking home from mass a young lady stopped me saying “well, you look like a nice cheerful chap… can I offer you this leaflet?” She was a Jehovah’s Witness, and as an ex-member of this insidious cult I had even greater reason to smile as I told her of my current situation.

    Even though they are indoctrinated to see one’s such as I as in league with the devil and full of demonic spirit, and so typically emoting looks of disgust and shocks in my previous encounters with them, on this occasion she couldn’t resist the smiley-infection and wished me a lovely day with a smile on her face. I was glad to leave her with that sublime moment of inherent contradiction between worldview and reality, and added a new item to my “things to pray about” list as an extra take-home.

    Still smiling.

  17. James Joseph says:

    I used to wear a 45 lbs MOLLE setup. Ugh!! I am glad I don’t don that anymore.

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