Over the Edge?


You can’t fall over a cliff from far away. You’ve got to be near the edge.
So, are you near the edge today? It sure can happen, can’t it? Even the best of us – and that’s a hard club to join anyway – can feel pushed too far some days.

The question really is, “How close to the edge are you normally, on a good day?” If you’re cool, calm and collected, maybe you’re harder to push over the edge than somebody else.

But life is full of pushes, isn’t it? One example – with overwhelming evidence now accepted by the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and many more – is TV violence. It pushes children and adults alike toward an edge where viewers become more likely to be aggressive and violent… if pushed in that direction.

And lots of us get lots of pushes. But we are pretty resilient. We walk ourselves back from that edge over and over again and even grow stronger by pushing back.

Resilience, however, is not a solo act. Sometimes it’s especially hard to walk back from the edge unless we have a little help from our friends.

So, here’s the rub. Just like you can’t tell a book by its cover, you can’t tell who’s living on the edge… not by just watching somebody walk down the street, slide a quarter into a parking meter, or squeeze a supermarket tomato to see if it’s ripe.

Consider the possibility that someone may be so close to that edge that an angry word or a casual snub might be far more damaging than we would imaging for someone close to a fall. On the other hand, maybe a kind word or the gentlest hand outstretched in kindness might be enough to help someone walk back, if only a step or two, from the brink.

It’s too late to help by the time somebody falls off that cliff, so now may be the very best time to look a little closer at the people walking beside you.

This week your Jamestown Gazette takes on the very serious subject of suicide prevention. We’re inviting you to come alongside some of our most vulnerable neighbors and even strangers – for their sake and for the sake of our community – and help them step back from the bottomless abyss from which no one can climb back up.

Joan Halifax, renowned anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist and hospice caregiver once said, “We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.

The Walk out of the Darkness event this Saturday will be a happy gathering for those friends and neighbors of ours who have decided to care… for one another and for the most vulnerable among us. The entire week, from Monday through Saturday, will also offer many more opportunities to learn or join in, in any way that seems right for you.

If you have ever looked over the edge of that cliff yourself, or know someone who has, you may find all the compassion you need to help a few others walk their way back.

Enjoy whatever walk you walk…and please, of course, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.