A Semi-Truck Safety Net

detroit police
Image Credit: MSP Metro Detroit

Somewhere in the darkness of that bridge stood a man.  We can’t see him in the picture.  But isn’t that so often the case?  Sometimes we don’t notice the desperate ones until it’s too late.

But he’s there nonetheless. His knuckles white against the concrete barrier and his toes pushing little pebbles over the edge.  As the cars rushed by below, I imagine he watches the pebbles shower their windshields.  Did he wonder if anyone even noticed?

Frenetic.  Frantic.  Fast lane life.  Moving so quickly we barely notice when the rain is replaced with the softest showering of rock.  Something’s out of place.  Someone’s out of place.  But if we keep moving, we miss it.

He stands on that bridge and believes himself to be alone.  Cigna just announced 48 percent of us feel lonely.  The loneliest among us?  The youngest in the survey group… Generation Z.  18 to 22 year olds.  They didn’t survey children, but it’s enough to make one wonder where we’re headed.  Each generation lonelier than the last.  Generation X, Y, Z… stepping further and further down into disconnection and social isolation.  What comes next?  There’s not even a letter of the alphabet left to name them.  Emptiness.  Blackness.  Loneliness.

Loneliness may not be the only reason someone stumbles onto a bridge above a whizzing, whirling freeway with every intention of stepping off.  But it must be one of the dark and quiet voices that draws you out.  Draws you in.  Deeper into the darkness.  Closer to the edge.

But this time, someone sees.  They look up.  They look out.  They notice!  With the police called and the freeway closed, the coaxing begins.  You aren’t alone.  In the four hours it took to get him to step back, undoubtedly the police said it in a hundred different ways a hundred times.  But shining light in the darkness can be slow work and we all know our words don’t matter as much as our actions.

And how do you really tell someone they are never alone?  You say “I’ll catch you if you jump.”

Thirteen trucks stopped.  They all had somewhere to be by dawn, but they stopped their frenetic, frantic activity.  They came out of the darkness, circled up and literally created a safety net out of the only thing they had to offer: their livelihood, their energy, their time.  They said – not just with words, but in deed – I see you.  You aren’t alone.

And isn’t this what we all need?  Even if we aren’t on the edge of an actual bridge, we don’t need someone to tell us how we “should” feel.  We don’t usually rationalize our way back from the edge.  We need to know someone’s going to catch us even if we jump.  When one of us is in a dark place, swallowed up by a thick inky blackness that’s slowly smothering the very spark of life burning in our heart, we can only back away from the edge and come up for air when we know, deep down in our bones, no matter what we are wanted and valued… we are precious in His sight.

The picture of those trucks lined up under the freeway is a picture of God’s kingdom to me.  Your kingdom come, your will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.

No one interviewed this guy on the bridge and asked for his resume before they stopped what they were doing and lined up their trucks.  No one asked what accomplishments he had achieved or whether or not he still called his grandma on Sunday afternoons.  No one asked if he’d ever been to prison, held a steady job, or paid his bills on time.  They didn’t ask because, truth be told, deep down we know none of this matters.  No matter what, his life has value.

And that no matter whatness comes straight from the heart of God.  Father Greg Boyle says it best, I think, in his book Tattoos on the Heart:

“The ‘no matter whatness’ of God dissolves the toxicity of shame and fills us with tender mercy. Favorable, finally, and called by name – by the one your mom uses when she’s not pissed off.”

No matter what, you aren’t alone.

No matter what, you are loved.

No matter what, your name is written on the palm of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

And there’s not one among us not worth a safety net made of semi-trucks.


3 thoughts on “A Semi-Truck Safety Net

  1. This reminds me of a couple of things:

    1) The so called “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. I find the whole exercise to be superficial and indicative of many of the problems we have in the society today. It is based on people’s need for self promotion, and “feeling good”, instead of real compassion for others. What ALS patients need, in most cases, is someone who is willing to be quietly there for them – hold their hands, listen to them, maybe help with some daily chores. But these things are beyond what most people are wiling to do. Why? Because deep down they don’t really care. Deep down they are not willing to spend their precious time and energy on another human being (who needs it), and they would only do it if somehow in that process they get to glorify themselves as well, especially via social media. No matter how much money it is raised through the campaign it is tainted with the wrong intentions. It would far more effective if the participants reach out to an ALS patient in their circle and be there for them, but I am willing to be bet at least 95% of them have no interest in that. In fact, I bet 95% of them don’t even know how to spell “ALS”, and didn’t care enough to find out.

    2) I see many “posts” on FB for suicide hotlines. People typically say things like, if you are having problems, please know this number and call it to talk to someone. I find these posts ridiculous. Assuming people who view these posts are your “friends”, why not say, if you are having problems, call ME and talk to ME. I’ll come over listen to you, and maybe we’ll cook some food together and talk and laugh and be friends?

    The reason, once again, is that people don’t care at all to do that in most cases. They want a simple solution to “show” that they care. They post a number which they never called as a simple and fast solution to their “friends” who are going through real sufferings. What does that do exactly? In most cases, nothing. It’s fake. It’s there to help the poster feel better about themselves, instead the people who really needed the help.

    One of the biggest problem we face in this society is its superficiality, is its lack of authenticity in human relationships and genuine compassion. Our “caring” is mostly fake and self serving. This is why despite the things you hear about on FB the sufferings are not decreasing, but just the opposite.

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    1. I think you’re on to something… and that’s why this collection of trucks is so beautiful to me. They quite literally demonstrated they were there going to catch him. We need to do the same for each other – the real, actual people in front of us. (Isn’t it interesting that even with social media, people in the generation most immersed in it are more lonely than ever before?)

      Like

      1. That’s right. People spend time on FB, on average, are more lonely than ever before. Why do people post these beautiful pictures about themselves constantly? They need attention of course; but yet, all these likes don’t seem to do that much to fill that void in our hearts. Because FB is built based on a false premise. Their goal “to connect people” is misleading. All the hundreds or thousands of “friends” we have on FB cannot replace a handful of real friends, for they are never around to listen to your problems, talk about life, and hold your hands. FB is like an aspirin, only good with masking the real problem.

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