“Don’t jump!” A letter to a stranger I’ve learned to care for

I was heading to my piano lesson when I got stuck in an unusual traffic jam in Pioneer Square. I called my teacher to let him know that I would be late and asked if he knew what was going on. It happened that at that very moment, a young woman was threatening to jump from the ledge of the King County Courthouse.

Nothing could have made me more distressed. I drove trying not to look up and steered my sight away from the crowd. I didn’t want to see the woman; I didn’t want to watch her jump; I didn’t want to see her dead. I prayed.

I finally parked and headed to my lesson, but my productivity was close to zero. No matter how great the lesson was, my mind was somewhere else. The same happened few hours later, when I was trying to get back to work. All the efforts to keep myself focused were vain. That strategy was clearly not working.

So I did something different. Since I was at the University District at that time, I decided to stop by the Henry Art Gallery. Among all the beautiful things in the museum, there was one exhibit, or better yet, one photograph that caught my attention. It was a photograph by Karl Haendel of a girl crying.

That image inspired me to write. I picked up my notebook and the blunt wooden pencil from the Gallery and started writing a letter – a desperate letter – to that young woman, asking her not to take her life. “Don’t jump, don’t jump, don’t jump.”

And here comes the cheesy part. As soon as I was done with my letter, I was in peace. I left the gallery, attended a meeting and drove back home in peace.

Not sure how that happened, but one question kept coming to me. What is this thing that art has that can transform the entire emotional state of a person? I may never find out what it is, but I know it exists and I’m drawn to places where I can find it.

Regarding the young woman, I know nothing about her, but somehow I’ve learned to like her. She thankfully decided to give another chance to her life. All I hope for her is that she discovers the very thing that transformed me and be inspired to create art so she can transform other people.