It was my senior year of college at the University of Washington. I worked as a cocktail waitress at the Tally Ho, which were restaurant lounges in three hotels in Seattle. I had worked my way up from hostess to breakfast waitress to cocktails during my years in school.
One night at work, I got a phone call from a suicide hotline. (I need give a shout out to LA from Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50 for her post about her burn and reminding me of a scar I still carry.)
The person on the line said they received a call from a family member of mine who attempted to end their life. She refused to give me any more information and quickly hung up. I called back and learned the phone call was an error. They were not allowed to give out confidential information of any kind. They weren’t supposed to call me in the first place and could give me no further information.
My parents were going through a messy divorce. I remember feeling like gravity had disappeared and at any moment I would fall off the Earth.
I left work and drove home to Snohomish to our family home, which was 45 minutes away from Seattle. I remember commuting to school and staying home with Mom as much as possible. She was the person who called the suicide hotline and gave them my work number after slitting her wrist.
Weeks later, we were at Nordstrom downtown Seattle and Mom wanted make up for her scar on her wrist. I was mortified when she approached a woman at a counter and asked for help. She showed her scar on her wrist and the woman behind the counter after an initial shocked look, was gracious and found something for my mom to cover up the scar.
Unfortunately, my internal scar never went away.
I was taking a class at the UW in radio broadcast and I had to splice together a recording. I chose the Beatles song “Help” and wrote a piece about the suicide hotline. My professor was very concerned and wondered why I had chosen that specific topic.
I am amazed I made it through the quarter and graduated.
Speaking of scars, which ones do you carry with you physically or internally?
My kids like to call me when they’re walking. Yesterday, while my daughter was walking Waffles around her neighborhood I heard her say “Oh no!”
She talked softly, “There’s someone laying on the sidewalk. Probably a homeless person.” My daughter explained that they look away from homeless people, that they don’t want to engage them. My kids live in the Bay Area where homelessness is a problem.
“He’s bleeding!” she said. It looked to her like he had slit his wrists. She ended her call with me. Minutes later she called me back and said he was conscious and was trying to get up. I suggested calling the police but she didn’t think they would help. She tried calling some mental health crisis centers, but nobody answered. Apparently crisis hotlines are staffed at night, not in the morning.
She called me again and said she asked if he wanted her to call someone or if should she call 911. He told her to call 911 because he couldn’t get up. She did and asked for the police and an ambulance. She waited with him until they came along with the fire department.
Another life saved by my daughter.
As a lifeguard she saved a drowning young boy. Then one evening in Laguna Beach, she and my husband went for a walk and a swim. She saw two people struggling in a rip tide. It was hours after the lifeguards were off duty. She swam out to them and told them what to do, to stay calm and helped them in. My husband swam out after her and they were able to get the people — who were drunk — safely onshore.
On her way back to the vacation cottage, she spotted the neighbors dog loose. She brought the dog back safely to its yard.
Yes I’m proud of my daughter to have empathy and to be able to help those in need. She said people were walking by ignoring the man. She was the only one who stopped to help.
What would you do if you saw someone who was probably homeless, bleeding on the sidewalk? Do you think you’d try to help? Or more likely walk away?Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do.