The woman sitting beside Rick on the plane opened a laptop and began typing. He thought he had never heard anyone type so fast, and wondered if she was typing real words or just faking it. When she rose to go to the restroom, he glanced at the screen to see. Her words shocked him: I'm returning to where my life began to end it.
He shot a quick glance up the plane's aisle, and saw her standing in a long line for the bathroom. He scanned down the screen as quickly as he could. What seemed to be a suicide note gave details of her plan--the how and when and where--but gave no reasons. She hadn't gotten that far in the final item she ever planned to type.
Rick remembered that he had prayed on the way to the airport that day: Lord, I want to be a better witness for You. Please let me make a difference in someone's life. Under his breath he mumbled, "Please give me the right words to say."
She returned to her seat, and Rick decided what he would do. He said nothing, and let her walk away once the plane had landed.
The next day, in her hotel room, an urgent pounding startled the woman. Someone was banging on the door, shouting about something he left behind in the room. She ignored it, but the noise continued, and she decided that it was better to be disturbed now than later.
She opened the door, and thought, My seatmate from the plane? What...?
Her moment of hesitation was all he needed, and he moved past her into the room.
Before she could demand that he leave, he started speaking quickly. "I'm sorry to admit this, but I read what you were writing on the plane yesterday. I know what you're planning to do, and I want you to tell me why."
She was stunned, and demanded, "Get out of my room! Now!"
"If I go, I'll inform the hotel manager. And he'll call the police, and it'll be a circus here in about five minutes. Not what you want, huh?"
He allowed only the briefest of pauses before he continued, "I'm not leaving. But I will make you a deal. You sit down and talk with me. Tell me why you want to die. Take all the time you want, and I'll listen. In exchange, I'll give you one reason why you shouldn't. Then I'll go. Deal?"
Her head spun, and she was struck by a strange sense of irony. On the plane yesterday, she had wished that she could tell someone her reasons instead of writing them, because the written word can be misinterpreted. And here stood a person, challenging her to do just that!
"You'll leave, and not notify anyone?"
So she began. She was hesitant at first, then eventually her tale spilled out, wave upon wave of disappointment and disillusionment crashing and seething, her anger and sadness rolling and roiling. She screamed, she cried, she even threw up into a hastily retrieved trashcan as it all boiled out and over.
The man, a stranger just the day before, was as good as his word. He listened, and did not reply until her story was at its conclusion.
"There," she said, "That's the whole thing. I have no value to anyone--I never have, and I never will. Now do you see why I want to die?"
Rick nodded. For the first time in hours, he spoke. "I understand. I understand more than you know." He pulled down one lapel of his shirt to reveal the unmistakable scar left behind by the entry of a bullet. "I shot myself here, when I was 16. When I woke up in the hospital, I was angry I had failed, and even more determined to try again. I talked with the hospital chaplain about why I had done it, and said the same thing you just did: 'I have no value.' He said that was impossible, then told me what I'm going to tell you.
"God Himself, the Creator of the universe, died for you. You have value."
He couldn't read her face, but knew he had to stick with their agreement.
"I'm going now. I won't be notifying anyone, but I will be praying for you in the next few minutes, praying hard."
He exited the hotel room, leaving the woman in God's hands.
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