An NYPD officer buys a homeless man shoes.
I know it’s odd to publish a post about someone’s death this belatedly, but I had no idea that this wonderful man had passed on, and I think he deserves a posthumous mention. Also known as the “Angel of the Gap,” this brave and compassionate Australian devoted more than half his life to saving people from attempting to end their lives by jumping off a cliff near his home. News.com reports:
Mr Ritchie spent 50 years coaxing desperate people back from The Gap, the notorious cliff at Watsons Bay where hundreds have died or thought about taking their lives.
He helped save 500 despairing souls – usually with little more than compassion, a warm smile and a hot cuppa.
“Those who knew him knew he was a very strong person and a very capable person,” Mr Ritchie’s daughter Sue said today.
Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate includes The Gap, added: “A true hero, one of our greatest Australians. RIP.”
Born in Vaucluse in 1926, Mr Ritchie died peacefully at home on Old South Head Road, Watsons Bay yesterday.
The former navy seaman turned life insurance salesman was never one to shout about his exploits.
He helped because he could.
Ms Ritchie said: “It was just something that he saw and that he had to do something about.”
New South Wales Mental Health Minister Kevin Humphries recalled when Mr Ritchie was named a Local Hero in the 2011 Australian of the Year Awards.
“Upon accepting the award Mr Ritchie urged people to never be afraid to speak to those most in need,” he said.
“Always remember the power of the simple smile, a helping hand, a listening ear and a kind word.”
A funeral will be held in Sydney on Friday.
As humble and simple as he was altruistic. The Global Post offered a more detailed account of his exploits, though it’s unfortunate that so few major media outlets mentioned him much before or after he died.
In his earlier years, Ritchie would physically restrain people from jumping off the cliff while his wife called the police, UPI reported. However, as he got older, he would simply offer distraught people at the edge of the Gap a cup of tea and someone to talk to.
Father Tony Doherty from Rose Bay Parish and a good friend of Ritchie’s told ABC News about the first time he saw Don literally talk someone off the ledge.
“I watched this figure gradually encourage [a man] to come back to the safety of the cliff,” said Father Doherty. “He has this wonderful soft, appealing voice that encouraged this little fellow not to jump.”
Ritchie won numerous community awards and a Medal of the Order of Australia for his efforts, and was named an Australian local hero of the year in 2011, according to the Telegraph. He also received gifts, Christmas cards, and letters from those he saved, sometimes a decade or two later, the Telegraph reported.
“Those who knew him knew he was a very strong person and a very capable person,” Ritchie’s daughter Sue told AAP News on Monday. ”It was just something that he saw and that he had to do something about.”
However, Ritchie was not always successful in his attempts to stop suicides, according to the Telegraph. He saw several people jump, including one instance where he spoke to a quiet young man who “just kept looking straight ahead,” Ritchie told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2009.
“I was talking to him for about half an hour thinking I was making headway,” said Ritchie. “I said ‘why don’t you come over for a cup of tea, or a beer, if you’d like one?’ He said ‘no’ and stepped straight off the side his hat blew up and I caught it in my hand.”
Whether he saved 160 people or 500 doesn’t matter – even saving a single human life is incalculably valuable. Mr. Ritchie has left behind quite a legacy: imagine having over a hundred people go on with their lives because you did nothing more than offer them an ear.
Not only is a wonderful example of the best aspects of humanity, but he offers an important lesson about what it takes to help another human being. All any of us want as humans, whether we’re suicidal or not, is someone to talk to and care. A small show of kindness or a simple offer to hear someone out could literally be all it takes. As Mr. Ritchie was found of saying, “a conversation could change a life.”
Indeed, he changed far more than many of course ever hope to. I hope more people take his lesson to heart. Think of all the lives we could improve or even save.
(To be clear, I’m not making light of suicidal and other morbid mental illnesses; obviously, certain individuals may require far more than human empathy to get better, as even Ritchie learned to his dismay. But the point is to at least make the effort. Taking a few minutes to check up on someone, be they friend or stranger, costs nothing but potentially save the most precious thing at all).
Finally, the Sydney Morning Herald also published an article that includes an interview with the charismatic but down-to-Earth Ritchie, whose sincerity and approachability makes it no mystery that he could coax people from the brink. As much as I’m tempted to mourn his death, I can’t help but feel happy that he lived such a full and accomplished life. I’m further consoled by the fact that there are many other low-key heroes just like him (including a very similar case in Japan).
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by Jorge Lobos
A few months ago Architecture Humanitarian Emergencies 02 caused a stir across the web. The Leading Architecture websites posted images of the book – leaving many readers to questioning how they could purchase a copy. Unfortunately, when contacted, the publisher reported that the book is not for sale, and only a few copies were printed for internal use.
With such useful information, it is simply a tragedy that people were unable to read all the content. Luckily for our readers, So|Aware was able to reach out and get direct access to all 122 full-color pages. Enjoy!
Every year humanitarian emergencies endanger more than 200 million people on Earth. This book explains how simple and low cost solutions, in accordance with cultural norms of each country’s project, can help to mitigate global disasters. The goal of the publication is to support the rights of every inhabitant on the planet using accumulated architectural knowledge for the good humankind.
The solutions are there. What we need is political and public will.
I hate to say this, but I think I’m actually giving up on people. Maybe I’m having a bad week, but lately I’ve been powerless to help others, and it is starting to weigh heavily on me. If people don’t want my help, I shouldn’t impose. I used to think otherwise - that I should try to help anyway - but now I’m not so sure. I may very well be making things worse. Perhaps I just need a break.
There was food left over from a luncheon at my job. I decided to take about a dozen bagels to give to some homeless people I often see while walking back to the metro. I came across a woman who was clearly malnourished. I offered to give her the whole supply, but she politely (and strangely) refused, and only with my insistence did she bother to take at least one. She did not want any more than that.
When I asked her why, she replied that there are other homeless folks that could you that food. That sort of altruism even in the face of desperation is Earth shattering. Would I have done the same in her position?
A rare bit of good news for once.
Chen Guangcheng, whose given name means “Light, Truth,” has become a powerful symbol of a common man standing up to the state. The following collection of Chen images, many widely circulated online, vividly illustrates the powerful emotional reaction his situation elicited from many Chinese netizens. Despite widespread censorship, Chinese Internet users are skilled at evading the controls and expressing themselves with creativity and humor. Since Chen was released from prison and placed under de facto house arrest in 2010, numerous cartoons, drawings, photographs, and other images created by supporters have helped bring his story from rural Shandong province to millions of people in China and around the world.
A blind, humble, and quiet man standing up to one of the most powerful authoritarian regimes in the world. What a contrast of power. This amazing human being was self-taught in law, and stood up for the rights of women and the rural poor in a country where the rule of law is often capricious, if it exists at all.
Research has found that people who end their own lives for selfless reasons – because they see themselves as burdens to others, or believe their deaths will benefit loved ones or the world in some way – have a higher success rate than those with any other motivation.
What does that say about human nature? Though suicide is popularly conceived as a selfish act, those who are most likely to succeed are driven by a sense of love and devotion for the people around them. It’s a rather morbid validation of the human capacity for altruism.
Note that I’m not romanticizing the act in any way. I’m merely reflecting on the complex motivations and workings of the human mind. There is something tragically beautiful about someone willing to take their lives on behalf of real or perceived benefits to others. It’s rather twisted that, more often than not, they themselves don’t benefit from the sort of altruism that would’ve saved them.