Australia’s Suicide-Spot Angel

June 14, 2010

This is one of those stories where the heartwarming rises up and beats the canoles out of the heartbreaking:

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life. “You can’t just sit there and watch them,” says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. “You gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.”

Australian authorities estimate that as many as 50 people a year commit suicide at the spot—but that Ritchie may have stopped as many as 160 of them.

Some people make the world a better place just by waking up in the morning.