Who: Don Ritchie
Where: Sydney, Australia — at a cliff called “The Gap”
When: “In 1964, he moved into a house on Old South Head Road, right across the road from the southern end of the Gap Park.”
What: Don Ritchie purposefully bought a house across from “The Gap” –“just so he could continue saving lives. He would wake up every morning and look out of the window for ‘anyone standing too close to the precipice.’ If he saw someone and thought they might jump, he would simply walk over with his palms facing up, smile, and say: ‘Is there something I could do to help you?'”
[He] was known as the Angel of the Gap, a title earned for persuading people not to throw themselves off the notorious Australian suicide spot.”
- Don served in Royal Australian Navy during World War II
- Over a period of about 50 years
- Don’s best estimate is 160 people saved from jumping to their death from the cliff called “The Gap.”
- “In 2006, Ritchie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for all his rescues.”
- “In 2010, he and his wife were named Woollahra Council’s citizens of the year.”
- “In 2011, he was given the Local Hero Award for Australia by the National Australia Day Council.”
- Don Ritchie died in 2012 at the age of 86
- Nicknamed “The Angel of the Gap”
- He worked as a life insurance salesman!
“We’d been here only a short time before I realized that a lot of people were coming over here and looking at the view and the next thing I find, they disappeared! . . . We’ve been involved in lots of these incidents and it’s just become part of a way of life for me to sort of sell them the idea that why not come over and talk about it and see how we can fix it.”
“the sheer cliffs at the mouth of Sydney harbour have long acted as a magnet to those who have lost all hope. But thanks to his calm voice and sympathetic manner, Mr Ritchie offered a helping hand to the desperate by engaging them in conversation on the cliff-top in their hour of need.”
“At the cliff-edge he would simply smile and ask them, “Can I help you in some way?” More often than not the quiet approach worked, though on some occasions he risked his own life by physically restraining the more determined from making their final leap.”
“I’m offering them an alternative, really. . . .I always act in a friendly manner. I smile. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many, many of them – just a way of saying, ‘What are you doing over here? Please come and talk to me. Come over and have a cup of tea, come and have a beer.’ To get them away from their mind, to get them away from going over while I’m here.”
“My ambition has always been to just get them away from the edge, to buy them time, to give them the opportunity to reflect and give them the chance to realise that things might look better the next morning,”
“You just can’t sit there and watch them . . . You’ve got to try and save them.”
“Things were different way back then. . . It was before there were police rescue vans, before there were more sophisticated mechanisms like hotlines. In those days, he got a bravery medal for saving somebody at the cliff – he actually tackled somebody on the edge of a cliff . . . He once said an offer of help “was all that was needed to turn people around and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile . . . [He was] a great mixture of strength and compassion… an everyday person who did an extraordinary thing for many people that saved their lives, without any want of recognition,” — daughter Sue Richie
“his wife Moya sees it as a blessing . . . ‘Isn’t it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?'”
“He would later tell friends of the people he had saved: “I was a salesman for most of my life and I sold them life.”
Don died from cancer in 2012 — “I imagine somebody else will come along and do what I’ve been doing.”
Key Biblical Thoughts:
- evangelism / soul-winning
- hopelessness / dispair
- compassion / caring
[“Pull Down” the details and words you find useful]
Don Ritchie was an Australian who purposefully moved to and bought a house across from one of the most dangerous cliffs on the coast of Sydney. He bought that home because he realized that the cliffs were used by people who wanted to take their lives. It was a place that the hopeless went to commit suicide.
Don Ritchie would see an individual approach the cliffs and reach out to them. Here is what he says about his approach to those on the cliff’s edge . . .
“Can I help you in some way?” . . . I’m offering them an alternative, really. . . .I always act in a friendly manner. I smile. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many, many of them – just a way of saying, ‘What are you doing over here? Please come and talk to me. Come over and have a cup of tea, come and have a beer.’ To get them away from their mind, to get them away from going over while I’m here.”
“My ambition has always been to just get them away from the edge, to buy them time, to give them the opportunity to reflect and give them the chance to realise that things might look better the next morning,” “
There were even times when he would physically restrain individuals and wrestle them to the ground to prevent the more determined from taking their lives.
His daughter said . . . “an offer of help was all that was needed to turn people around and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile . . . a great mixture of strength and compassion.”
[Now Pull Down Those Words and Phrases]
As God’s people, we need to purposefully move next to people. Over time, you come to realize that there are places where people find themselves when they have lost hope. We don’t need to stay in our houses. We need to “buy a house,” which is alongside the cliffs of life’s unhappiness. We need to be people who say in word and in deed, “Can I help you in some way! There is an alternative!“
It is by speaking to people — not silence — by saying, “What are you doing over there? There’s an alternative. Come and talk to me.” Some of those people just need a smile, a kind word, or deed. We, of all people, must not underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile!
Do we have a passion to “get them away from the edge” of a Christless eternity and give them the opportunity to reflect again on the claims of Christ? — To give them the chance to realize that things might look better after Christ!
At times, we need to be so passionate that we are willing to “wrestle the more determined” who at the cliff’s edge — a people with strength and compassion!.
After serving in the Navy during WWII, Don Ritchie became a life insurance salesman! He said this . . .
“I was a salesman for most of my life and I sold them life.”
That is what we need to be doing — selling people life!
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