Yesterday was a really fun and exciting day for me. I'll give you more details later about that, but for now they aren't important. All that matters is that I'm skipping to my car in the parking deck. Okay, so maybe not actually skipping. Let's get real. I start to skip and things start moving that take hours to settle down. But I was having one of those delicious moments in life when the winter-gray slush-covered world around you bursts into sparkling color and you want to spin and throw your arms around and laugh into the sky like they do in all those stock photos and Metamucil commercials. I didn't even mind that the only space I could find to park was on the third floor. I was in my own world, completely oblivious to the people bustling around me.
I'm in a line of drivers exiting the parking deck when I see the flashing lights and yellow tape. And the body. There, blocking our path out of the parking deck and onto the street, was a bundled up man lying face down in the snow covered street. My world turned into slow motion as I watched people run up with blankets and stop as the policeman shook his head and without words indicated that it was too late. And sitting there in my warm car, I watched them cover his body with a sheet, not even six feet away from me while a group of strangers hung their heads in a universal moment of compassion. All I could think was that somewhere his wife and children were enjoying the snow day, with no idea of how their lives were about to change. It was a quiet sobering ride home. I couldn't get the image out of my head of him lying there on the street.
This morning I'm sitting in my happy warm house surrounded by the smells and sounds of the life I have created, scanning the online news for word of this stranger who left the world yesterday. I finally found him on page three, in a tiny article beside an ad for tires. And I read of how he had jumped to his death from the third floor of the parking deck. Right where I was parked. While I'm spinning around in the deliciousness of my life, another man is standing on a ledge.
Did I pass him in that parking deck? Was he perhaps standing only a few feet away from me? Could I have somehow made a difference with a kind word or a smile when he needed it most? My life is filled with encounters of people I meet – people I share a powerful moment with. Why couldn't I have crossed paths with him? Maybe I could have made a difference. Or maybe I had the chance, and didn't see it. What if he was right there within the sound of my voice?
Good-bye stranger. Rest in peace. I'm sorry I didn't look up.