Yesterday, walking back from the King Center, in Atlanta, I was approached by a man on the street. I cringed inwardly. Another panhandler, I guessed. 

The man said he was in trouble. He needed help. He was having ragin suicidal thoughts and didn’t know what to do. He asked me to dial 911. So I did. 

While we waited for first responders, we sat and talked. He had scars from previous suicide attempts going up his arm. I had seen this many time before as a pastor. I learned that his name was Bill. He had done two tours in Iraq. He had lost his job and was off his meds. Statistics of daily suicides by veterans flashed through my mind. Funerals If suicide victims over which I had presided flooded my thoughts. My father died one month ago yesterday. And I have friends and family who have struggled with self-harm. So, my own feelings were very close to the surface. 

The first person to show up was an officer. I worried about how he would respond to this gentleman. The officer immediately read the situation. I was so impressed and grateful. Thank you Officer Lencrerot. You rock. He described his own PTSD. You have to talk it out with a therapist. They talked about the resources at the VA. 

Then Medical First Responders arrived from Grady Hospital. They were on the ball. They sent a social worker who knew her stuff, understood the situation, and handled things very well. An efficient ten-minute sidewalk intake ensued. 

As they prepared to leave. The officer and I hugged Bill.  I told him God was with him. He would get through this. He was doing all the right stuff. He reached out for help. I then thanks the officer and the first responders and praised them for doing such a good job. Every day. 

It’s interesting: The most important events of the day often aren’t on the schedule.