“Five minutes of hope can stop a person from committing suicide.”

I learned that lesson in theory, first, then I learned it in real life shortly thereafter when I talked a man out of the .357 he had pointed at his temple.

For twenty years I served as a minister of a church and was called in the middle of the night for all kinds of tragedies. In fact, almost twenty years later, if my phone rings at 2 a.m., I won’t sleep the rest of the night. 

“Reverend McNary,” the gruff voice on the other end of the line graveled at 1 a.m. “Please call 9-1-1 and have them come to my house. When they get here, I’ll be dead. I can’t take it anymore. I have my .357 and I’m going to end it all.”

Part of my training as a minister had involved suicide prevention so, at 1 a.m., their theory of providing hope suddenly became a case-in-point, rubber-meets-the-road, reality check.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” I was suddenly wide-awake. “Please don’t do anything until I get there. Will you promised me you won’t pull the trigger until I get there? I know how to fix this for you. I promise, I can help you.”

Silence. I expected to hear a gun shot as I hurriedly put on my clothes.

“Yeah, I guess I can wait for you.”

When I arrived, the front door was ajar so I busted in, truly expecting him to be slumped over in chair, his life over.

Instead, the .357 was pointed at his temple and he was still alive.

I had been talking to him for several months and knew of his despair. I had connected him with a wonderful therapist I knew and it seemed like progress was being made. But he had lost his wife; lost his job; lost his reason for living; he didn’t really want to die; he just couldn’t imagine living with the pain any longer.

Ten minutes earlier I had promised him I could help him but as I raced to his home, I didn’t have clue what to say, other than provide five minutes worth of hope. Then turn that into 15 minutes, then 30, then an hour, then a day, then a lifetime.

So I gave him five minutes worth of hope.

“I promise you, in five minutes, your life will get better,” I said. “If you will listen to me for five minutes, some of the pain will go away.”

I did something my sister, Carmen, who is 20 years my senior, taught me. I breathed life with the words I spoke. After ten minutes, he lowered the gun and handed it to me and I was still quoting very positive scripture verse and inspirational quote I could think of, sometimes even twice because I knew my words held power. I complimented him about every positive aspect of his character and, yes, I admit, even made up some really good stuff that I gave his friends credit for saying about him.

That’s been a long time ago and he found his way and life is good for him.

It is my opinion that hope is the most powerful of human forces. With it, we can conquer the world. Without it, life is not worth living.

Give someone five minutes worth of hope today.

Or, if you need some hope today call or text me at: 316-734-6845. I can think of nothing better I could do to celebrate Easter than by giving someone hope. After all, hope is the fundamental message of this day of celebration.

Your Sunday is coming. Hang on.