Two Ballet Flats and an iPhone

Two ballet flats, which looked to be around a size six, caught my attention as I ran in the dark last Thursday. My running partner and I were on the beginning leg of our 10 km run and were just starting to warm up before the sun had even dared to come up.

When my alarm rings at 4:10 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I tend to wonder if I am crazy.

During June and July in the subarctic, getting up at 4:10 am isn’t hard because the sun has already been up for awhile. Waking up to a sunrise in process that is sharing glorious reds, pinks and oranges makes it easy to get up … or at least it keeps me from wondering if the world is coming to an end or questioning my sanity.

Now that it is fall and 4:10 am greets me with a sky the color of freshly laid asphalt and only 3 degrees, I don’t wonder about my crazy status – it is clear that I am out of my mind.

But that’s the thing about accountability, it even has the power to get my lazy arse of bed before the birds start their morning chatter.

The running women await my arrival, so I stumble in the dark towards my kitchen – opening my eyes is always optional at this point in the morning.

Coffee must be drank, at least two cups, prior to me leaving the house.

I have my priorities straight and am compassionate towards the rest of the world; no one needs to have an under-caffeinated Donloree on their hands.

As we approached the ballet flats, which I assumed a very fit woman must have lost during her morning bicycle commute to the University over the High Level Bridge, I felt the urge to pick them up and post them on social media so the fit, professional woman wouldn’t have to go barefoot or clomp around in her bike shoes all day.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky; it seemed endless as it stretched deep into its black abyss of nothingness. The glimmer of the iPhone lying abandoned between the two shoes was faint but nonetheless it winked at me, pleading for attention.

My initial thought was that there was an iPhone-less and ballet flat-less woman in the city and disaster abounds.

I was completely correct, but not in the way I thought.

Without fully understanding what was happening, my body slowed down and turned towards the owner of the shoes. She was already on the other side of the fence with her size six feet hanging off the four inch ledge and her two fists holding onto the chain link fence while facing the river below.

Her body shuddered as she contemplated what she believed to be her only option – death.

Four inches of cement and ten fingers separated life from death.

Adrenaline and calm suddenly coexisted in my body.

“I need to call 911. You need to talk to her, be with her.”

Some of the longest minutes of my life stretched out in front of me as I waited to be connected to police services while watching a tiny, young woman take one hand off the fence as stories of pain, abuse, neglect and horror poured out of her soul and trickled down her cheeks.

Now only five fingers separated life from death and there was no one there to help us to keep it from happening. My heart reached out in silent connection as I tried to will her to come back over to safety and experience love and hope in the words we shared with her.

Forty minutes later the police removed us from the scene, Shivering and brokenhearted, we started the 1.5 km reverence-filled run back to the YMCA.

As I tried to get ready for the day without crying in the locker room, I answered an unknown ID call on my phone. A deep breath filled with hope and dread entered my lungs.

She chose life.

Her ten fingers reached out and latched onto a small glimmer of hope for a better tomorrow.

Tears filled my eyes and I shared the news with the other women in the change room; collectively we shared a sigh of relief and cheered.

Two days later I ran across the bridge and spent the kilometer being grateful for how wonderful my life is; despite how utterly crazy, hard and complex it is.

I have more than enough, despite all of my problems.

The mental image of the abandoned ballet flats will never leave me and will come to mind every single time I cross the High Level Bridge; a reminder to choose hope, be grateful, and to always run through life with amazing people by my side.

It is my victory bridge.

Later that afternoon, I called to see if someone could tell me which hospital the tiny, gorgeous woman has been taken to – of course they couldn’t – simply because she needed to hear the truth in my heart that kept threatening to pour out of my eyes.

You matter. You are important. You are not invisible. You have not been forgotten.

All I wanted to do was take her in my arms and say, “I was on the bridge with you. I see you. You matter. You are worth fighting for and there is nothing in my power that I wouldn’t have done to keep you with us. Stay. Fight.”

Perhaps she isn’t the one who needs to hear this truth today. Perhaps it is you.

You matter. You are important. You are not invisible. You have not been forgotten.

If you’re on the other side of the fence with only 4 inches of cement and ten fingers keeping you from death, ask for help and let yourself be seen.

Reach out and grab onto hope, no matter how faint the glimmer.

And for those of us running by, don’t pretend like it isn’t happening when you see it. Stop and face your humanity and the person in front of you, no matter how scary it may be in the moment.

Oftentimes when you help save a life, you end up saving your own.

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  1. Donloree, you are an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This post was especially poignant! I am going to share it with my ladies group this morning. You are wise beyond your years!

  2. Donloree, YOU are an amazing woman of God! This is my first read of your blog…didn’t know you had one. Jackie Reynolds posted this in CCBC’s Wednesday Womaen’s Bible Study group. So glad she did!
    (PS. I have been fervently uplifting you in prayer!) Hugs, and hope to meet you in person some day!

  3. Relevant. Important. Spoke to me. Thank you.

  4. Wow…. Life is so precious it breaks my heart to imagine how many others are contemplating the same thing. But we are not alone, it’s hard to believe it when you’ve never had anyone to support you, but there are many services and people in our communities who do care and want to share the truths about real raw love and hope. I hope this story encourages others.

  5. Your best. Period. Good for you for doing what you did. This is a subject which is near and dear to most of our hearts — something we have all been touched by directly or indirectly. Those could have been my slippers once, though I hope I won’t face those feelings again.

    I will be keeping her in my thoughts.

    • They could have been mine once too my friend. She was so beautiful and courageous as her story poured out of her, I hope she finds peace, healing, forgiveness, rest and health.

  6. Thank you, Donloree, for being there for her and for sharing the moment with us! This is definitely one of the most powerful posts you’ve written.

  7. Donloree,
    Thank you so much for sharing this post. And thank you for taking notice of those ballet slippers and being able to play a role in bringing their owner back to safe grounds!!!!!
    “you are not invisible”
    “don’t pretend like it isn’t happening when you see it”
    jumped at me

    This was a very powerful post indeed!



  1. […] Donloree Hoffman encounters a woman straddling the line between life and death. […]

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