The Boy on the Bridge

Guest story from Susan Straub

It was dusk on a surprisingly warm Saturday on January 27th. I was running late, headed home. I knew Ernie was waiting for me to get home so we could go to a charity event.

Straub Construction: Boy on a BridgeI have a habit of running a little late so I was hoping to hurry home when a white car caught my eye. It seemed out of place, parked on a highway overpass on Shawnee Mission Parkway. Just past the vehicle, I saw someone. I looked closer as I passed him. No shoes. Ragged clothing. Unwashed hair in a ponytail. He looked young and extremely agitated. And he was leaning over the side of the bridge.

Something inside me went on high alert, and I instinctively slowed down. Another car was coming behind me, and I watched as it passed by the boy and kept going. The boy was still on the bridge, looking down into the oncoming highway traffic.

I started whispering a Hail Mary and then a prayer to St. Michael.  “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard…”

As I looked up to the overpass, I could see the boy back up, away from the ledge. My heart started racing as I was not sure what I was to do now..

Can I be honest? I’m not one to jump into action when there’s a crisis.

Straub Construction: Boy on the BridgeIn emergency situations, I usually back up, I let others be the first responders, people more equipped to handle things. And I’m definitely not in the habit of helping strangers on the side of the road at night. I’m great at helping in the aftermath, but in the moment, I freeze up.

I was really hoping that other car would stop. But it didn’t, and no other cars were coming. It was just me, and I knew I had to help. So I took the exit and turned around, coming back up on the road beside him.

He eyed me as I pulled up in front of him. Rolling down my window, I called out “Excuse me, are you okay? Can I help you?” He came towards my car, and I got nervous all over again.

His face was even younger up close. He looked like he hadn’t cleaned himself in a week, and tears were streaked down his face. “Yeah, can you get a piece of paper and write down my name? I’m going to kill myself and I want people to know who I am.”

My heart was racing. My fingers shook as I scrambled to find a pen. I had to ask him to repeat his name, and I just started talking, trying to say anything I could think of to convince him to change his mind. I told him about how Jesus had sent me back to talk to him, and he spat back that he hadn’t believed in God since he was seven. He leaned into the door of my car, unloading all of his pain. He was addicted to drugs and an alcoholic. He felt confused about his sexual identity and was certain his parents didn’t love him. “I just can’t do this any longer.”

I felt his desperation, and saw the confusion and hurt riddled on his face. I can’t even remember what all I said, but I blurted out everything I could think of to convince him he didn’t need to do this. He didn’t need to have it all figured out. That it was ok if it took a couple tries to be free from his addiction. I said, “You can’t do this alone, but Jesus can help you through this.”

“Well, I don’t believe in Jesus.”

I pointed right at him and said, adamantly, “But He believes in you!”

I thought he was starting to hear what I was saying, but a few minutes in, he got more frustrated. Without warning, he jumped in his car and peeled out, speeding down Shawnee Mission Parkway.

At least he wasn’t the boy on the bridge any more.

Not sure what to do next, I drove home, heartsick and praying. I told Ernie what just happened, and he convinced me to call the Shawnee Police. So I did, telling the dispatcher everything I knew. He asked what his name was. I couldn’t remember. “Well, what was the license plate number?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t even look at that.”

“Well, what kind of car was it?”

“Um, it was white, and dirty. I’m sorry, I didn’t notice the details. I was just so worried in the moment.”

“Well can you describe him?”

“Young man, I believe he said he was 18. He wasn’t wearing any shoes, and he had a ponytail and a nose ring.”

“Ma’am, we have him here. There’s a boy, matching that description, here at the station right now.”

My hand flew to my chest. and I sighed with relief. I didn’t know how he got there, but it felt like a huge blessing from God that I knew that, at least for the moment, he was okay. The dispatcher reassured me that there were staff trained to help in these situations.

Straub Construction: Boy on the BridgeI still think of that young man, and pray for him every day. I know that mental illness, and struggling with addiction is a long and uphill battle. I’m sharing this story because I want to encourage others who might not always feel brave or feel like they don’t know how to help when others are hurting. I didn’t realize I was prepared for this moment, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time (running late even!)

I had been reading through Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory, a Marian Consecration devotional. A few days after this incident, I read this quote: “The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor… People today are hungry for love, for understanding love which is much greater and which is the only answer to loneliness and great poverty.”

It was such an important reminder that people don’t need me to have the right answers or to be some superhero. Showing up and being myself really is enough. So keep your eyes and hearts open, and know that God will give you the strength when the time comes because you never know when you might see the boy on the bridge.

23 replies
  1. Kay Farley
    Kay Farley says:

    Thank you for sharing this story Susan and for being open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to check out what was happening to this boy on the bridge. It’s people like you that bring love to the painful circumstances of our world. God bless you; Once again God uses the Straub family to bring hope to the hopeless

    Reply
  2. Julie Legg
    Julie Legg says:

    Oh my Susan!! Thank you for sharing your honest and heartfelt story. I am also like you – not one to jump into action in a crisis. This is so very encouraging. You saved a life!!! By just being YOU. By listening to Jesus. I came to this website looking for a job and found a story that will stick with me for awhile.
    Regards,
    Julie

    Reply
  3. Becky Slater
    Becky Slater says:

    Oh Susan, I don’t know if you remember me, I am Becky and my daughter Lauren Walling went to Maranatha with Matthew, many years ago. Then I worked at the pharmacy at the Price Chopper, in West Shawnee. Anyway, thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you and listening to His voice to talk to this poor kid. We need more people with hearts full of hope and compassion, who are willing to share the Good News that Jesus came to heal our hurts and make our lives new! Thank you for being faithful. I have to admit, I probably would not have been so brave. God bless you, and I will be praying that God gets ahold of this boy’s life and heart and rescues him!~ Becky Slater (formerly Wallling)

    Reply
  4. Lisa Oshinski
    Lisa Oshinski says:

    Wow Susan – I’m crying reading this… What an incredibly beautiful thing you did! You are so beautiful inside and out. I am one of your many admirers who believe you are truly a wonderful person who would do anything for anyone. I’m glad God gave you the strength to take the extra steps in this situation. May God Bless you and keep you safe! Love you!

    Reply
  5. Jeanne Hoduski
    Jeanne Hoduski says:

    This just melts my heart…the great love of God for us.
    I so appreciate the courage it must have taken for Susan to step out of comfort or safety and get involved. Thank you. He’s someone’s someone.

    Reply
  6. Maureen Conran
    Maureen Conran says:

    Thank you for spreading God’s love, Susan🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼
    Thank you for being a wonderful example for me and for all.
    God bless you too🙏🏼😘🙏🏼

    Reply
  7. Krystal
    Krystal says:

    Thank you for posting your story. It makes me ponder 🤔 a situation I am faced with right now. Glad this boy is safe now. Glad God gave you the courage and the words in the moment.

    Reply
  8. Melinda Thurston
    Melinda Thurston says:

    Thank you so much for being God’s hands and feet, Mrs. Straub. I absolutely love when people are open to following their “instinct” even when it’s uncomfortable. Each time I’m running a little late, I do think to myself maybe there’s a reason….you just confirmed it! :-)

    Reply
  9. Michelle Sweeney
    Michelle Sweeney says:

    I believe that from time to time- God guided us to be at a certain place at a certain time-
    Glad your okay and hope the kid is okay as well.

    Reply
  10. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing….what an incredible reminder that a kind, caring word at the right time can be completely life-altering.

    Reply

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