It was a normal day at the TV station, I was the sales manager, and also responsible for writing, shooting, and editing some of the station’s TV commercials. There was always plenty to do at the little non-profit station in southern New Mexico. It was the first time that I had worked at a television station, specifically a Christian programming station, having spent most of my career in mainstream radio up to that point. I still remember the day that I first walked into that station with my resume in hand, handed it across the desk to the station manager, saying, “I’m Dianne James, here’s my resume, and I’d like to work for you.” He looked at the resume and we had a good talk.
At the conclusion of that talk, he said, “Well, you’ll have to do sales in addition to other work…” I’d heard that before. I’d done that before, just not television, but I knew that if I could sell watermelons, potatoes, and radio airtime, I could sell television. Also, there was a more important purpose to this job. I didn’t know it then, but it was an opportunity to help people, and to make a difference. The money wasn’t great since it was non-profit, but it was also my first television job. The only other TV station I’d ever even visited was, as a young child, on my birthday when I was allowed to ring the bell on the Admiral Foghorn Show, a kind of West Texas version of Captain Kangaroo, in Odessa Texas. I didn’t mention Admiral Foghorn.
I would be one of three salespeople and would go out with the manager to meet my assigned clients, during those first days on the job. Well, in a perfect world, that would have happened. The manager was a very busy man. He didn’t have time to hold someone’s hand and introduce them to everyone. So, one day while waiting for him to get off the phone, I decided not to wait any longer. I left and started making cold calls. Months passed until one day while going into the control room, I tripped and fell on a tiny little step-down into the room. I didn’t know a human’s foot could bend that far backward. I couldn’t walk. Needless to say, I was on crutches for a few weeks, and carrying a briefcase, making sales calls, and by then it had snowed. Not a pleasant experience. After a particularly slow sales month, I was thinking that maybe this job wasn’t meant for me, after all. My boss called me into the office one day and said he wanted me to be the sales manager. He had always been the sales manager, and, to my knowledge, no-one else had ever held that position except him, so I stayed. The staying proved to be a learning experience.
It was during my tenure as the sales manager that a woman walked into the station, desperate and hopeless. I asked her if I could help her, and she looked a little bewildered. She said, with a slight Spanish accent, “I don’t know, I just came in here, I don’t know why. My son got killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Cruces, and I just got out of court.” I saw the pain in her eyes. Enormous pain. She was on the verge of tears, as she relayed the story of how her son just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a bullet from a drive-by shooter took his life. I had children of my own, and at that moment something within me felt some of her pain. Well, there was no reason for her to be at the TV station, she didn’t even know it was a television station; she said she’d just wandered in, from the courthouse across the street. I noticed the braces on her legs, her graying hair and a look in her eyes that made me feel like she thought I could do something about all of this. I told her, “Wait, I’ll be right back.”
I brought her a Bible from the office and turned to the book of Job. “This has helped me many times in my life, and I think it will help if you read this,” I told her.
She took the Bible, said ok, and sat down in the lobby, and began to read. I told her I’d be back in just a little bit. I left the room to give her time to read it. When I came back, she was gone. The Bible lay on the sofa, and I wondered if she had even read the passage. I felt bad, that maybe I should have gone back to check on her sooner, but she was gone and nothing could be done.
Time passed, and the CBS Sunday Morning staff members had come to Alamogordo to shoot a special about gang violence with Howdy and Yahooskin Fowler as a part of it, with their cross-country camel trip, raising awareness of gang violence. The woman who had wandered into the station days before was definitely on my mind. I finally found out who she was and called her in Las Cruces, to see how she was doing, she had been so down, so depressed about her son, I had wondered what had happened to her. She said, “Yes, I remember you.” At the end of the conversation, she said, “Thank you. You saved my life.”
The day she had walked in, I didn’t know what that woman might do. I knew she was in pain, and very depressed. All I could do was talk to her and she to me, and try to give her some hope. I found out that no matter what our walk or position in life, we can help people along the way. You don’t have to be a saint to help someone, either. Good thing, because I wasn’t. All I knew is that she was so distressed, she might commit suicide.
Suicide is not the answer because what you are going through right now might be the experience that someone needs in the future to keep them from committing suicide or giving up on life- a source of future joy for you, being able to truly help someone. There is great joy in this life for you if you give it enough time to find you. It is these tumultuous times, these trials of life, that prepare us for what we have to do in the future. Unfortunately, too many take their own lives, not knowing that they could help someone else with their wisdom of having been in that pain, too. They don’t realize that a person can do anything, an hour at a time. A day at a time. What it takes is talking about it- even if it’s to a stranger. Maybe even a pastor. Many people try taking anti-depressants to deal with their problems, but I’ve found that the best and fastest way to face the most difficult situations is head-on, right through the middle of it. When a person is feeling that much pain, the perspective from which they’re looking at the situation is skewed by that pain. For that reason, it seems hopeless. It really helps to vent to another person who will listen. Find one that will, even if it’s a stranger because tomorrow is a new day. The sun will rise, the birds will sing, and you will survive this. You will be stronger for having survived this, and you will then be in a special position to help someone else survive that pivotal moment when life is in the balance.
Everyone has a purpose in their life. It takes many of us a long time to find what that is, but there is a purpose. You need to stay alive to find out what it is. Remember, too, that there are millions of people in this world who feel like they have no-one who loves them. There is love. Just keep living and striving for the joy that you will find. Keep learning and you’ll keep growing. And don’t forget, you can do anything, an hour or a day at a time. You’d be surprised to know how many people who are walking around happy today have, at least once, considered killing themselves. This moment now is but a tiny part of your wonderful journey of life ahead. If the Lord can use a plain old salesperson like me to help someone, He can certainly use you, too. Someone will need your love, someday. You can only love them if you’re alive.
Did you know:
30,000 people commit suicide each year in the United States – a rate of 11 in every 100,000 Americans, or one person every 17 minutes.
The Rocky Mountain region has the highest suicide rate in the country. In 1998, the suicide death rate in Colorado was more than 14 people per 100,000, making it the 12th highest in the country and 36% higher than the national average.
An estimated 9,600 Coloradans seriously contemplate suicide each year and approximately one-half to two-thirds of these individuals are not being treated for their suicidal symptoms.
Key Facts About Suicide
The largest number of suicide deaths occur among middle-aged men, between 35 and 44 years of age, with the risk for suicide increasing for those with a mental illness or who abuse alcohol.
Middle-aged men who commit suicide are also the least likely of all groups to seek mental health treatment prior to their death.
The risk of suicide death increases among men as they age and is particularly high among men who are 75 years or older.
Most of the elderly who die from suicide are white and are not married.
The risk for suicide among women does not increase as they age.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth, although suicide deaths among youth are relatively infrequent compared with other age groups.
Young people, particularly young women, are much more likely to be hospitalized for a suicide attempt than older adults.
Risk factors for suicide can be characteristics of an individual (being male, having a mental or physical illness, having a family history of suicide), situational (living alone, being unemployed) or behavioral (alcoholism, drug abuse or owning a gun). Individuals at risk for suicide tend not to seek treatment for their emotional problems. Getting this population into care is an important goal of suicide prevention efforts. National data suggest that only one-third (36%) of people at risk for suicide visited a medical care provider within the past year. Only 10% report having seen a physician for their emotional problems and an additional 29% visited a physician for other reasons.
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