When I Asked Someone to Stay

March 16, 2021

By Maya Smith

Pledge to Take Action

I read every post that goes up on ChannelKindness.org, and I’ve read every story in CHANNEL KINDNESS many times over. Channeling kindness is not just something I do professionally, it’s something that I rely on personally and has led to some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. 

Today, I want to tell you about my friends Ali and Marques. I learned about Ali through a Channel Kindness story by Amy Sun, and as I read about her bravery, I knew both of our lives were about to change. Ali is a four-time suicide attempt survivor and from the depths of her darkness, she learned the importance of anchoring herself to the world and in that process, became an anchor for so many. Reading her story, the one thing I could not yet imagine (and that still overwhelms me) is how many other lives would change because Ali and I would come together, because Amy would write about Find Your Anchor, and because only two years later we would create the Please Stay Pledge.

When you visit PleaseStay.us, you are met with mental health resources, expert-curated self-care tips, and suggestions for anchors to remind you that the world needs you and your kindness. I ask people to please stay, every day. I ask for the loss that my own family experienced. I ask because I want to be another loud voice in the chorus singing the world is better because you are in it. I ask because of my friend Marques. 

I met Marques two years ago in Las Vegas when he was hired to pick me up from the airport and drive me to my meetings throughout the day, and I believe we were destined to meet that day. Marques didn’t know who I was, what I spent my days doing, that I had read about Ali, and that in my purse, I had a Find Your Anchor box. He didn’t know I was in Las Vegas to brainstorm suicide prevention programming, and at present, all he knew was that I was eager to make small talk and had two little children whose activities would fill my weekend. I turned the questions on him and asked him what he was going to do that weekend. His grip on the steering wheel tightened and he stood upright in his seat, clouds darkening his easygoing, joyous disposition. Tears began to well up in his eyes, as he kept them on the road and spoke into the air in front of him that he struggled with anger issues. He had been adopted, his life upended too many times by trauma and violence, and while he tried every resource he could access, he had shown anger towards his wife and their daughters and had been removed from their home. He had summoned the energy to go to work but when his workday was over, he planned to give in to the thoughts in his head that called for him to end his life. Without the people that mattered most to him, after having hurt them, he couldn’t go on.

We arrived in the parking lot of my next meeting and he hunched over the steering wheel, overcome by the reality of what he had just shared with a stranger. I felt safe with Marques, even in that moment of fear and uncertainty, and I told him that. I told him that I knew the voice in his head was yelling at him but that it wouldn’t always be that way and that even though I had just met him this morning, I cared whether or not he lived another day. That his wife and daughters needed him, too. I reached into my purse and handed him the Find Your Anchor box and thanked him for trusting me with his truth and his struggles. I didn’t go into that last meeting, instead, sitting in Marques’s car as he flipped through the deck of cards entitled 52 Reasons To Live and placing the plastic bracelet that read “You Are Loved” on his tattooed wrist.

Marques and I text regularly now, exchanging pictures of our children and updates on our lives. His family is thriving and Marques continues to work on himself, for his daughters, and for his greater purpose in the world. We’ve spent a lot of time together since that day in the parking lot and he’s told his story to many people at Born This Way Foundation. We have matching anchor tattoos because to me, Marques represents the incalculable value of my work. We lose Marques’s every day; far too many parents, friends, neighbors, students, and loved ones. We never know when the opportunity for a conversation will present itself, we don’t know when a stranger will need a sign to stay alive, we don’t even know when those closest to us are struggling. Let’s assume the world desperately needs the love and kindness that we have and let’s do everything we can to make sure that people stay. Please, stay.

Sign the pledge and share this resource with a loved one today: PleaseStay.us.

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