The following is part of a series of “I Walk Because…” posts. To find out about joining one of AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks, click here.
May 10, 2017 – Why do I walk participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Overnight Walks? I walk because those affected by suicide are stronger together. I walk because it’s rare to discover a place in which you can share some of your deepest pain with people you’ve just met, and have it received with grace, love, and not an ounce of judgment.
In the Overnight, I have truly found a sense of community. Not only do we journey 18 miles through the night together with those we love, as well as those we’ve just met, we also walk through each other’s stories. On these journeys we find connection, caring, and support. I’ve had strangers I’ve met through Overnight social media pick me up and take me to the airport. I’ve made friends while participating in the opening ceremony, and traveled together with them to the Overnight the following year.
I’ve met many people participating in the Overnight Walks over the past ten years, but one of the deepest connections I’ve made came after the Walk itself. In the early morning hours after the 2009 Chicago Walk, waiting at the gate for my flight back home, I noticed a woman wearing an AFSP Walk t-shirt. I asked her how she’d found out about The Overnight, and in a quick snap shot, she shared with me, a stranger, about her devastating loss. When our flight landed, Jess and I hobbled together – well, I hobbled; she was in better shape – through the airport, and exchanged contact information as we headed our separate ways.
Jess lives in Pennsylvania and I live in New Jersey: about a three and a half hour drive. We kept in touch sporadically that first year, and then saw each other briefly again at the Boston walk in 2010. We reunited for the NYC walk in 2011. Jess and I walked, talked, and laughed all night. It was during this Walk that I believe our friendship really formed. Over the next few months I took multiple trips to Pennsylvania to visit her. I joined her for her children’s birthday parties. We would talk into the late hours of the night as she worked on the detailed birthday cakes she created for her kids.
Every year since then, if Jess and I are at the Walk, with friends or alone, we walk together and spend the night catching up. Our visits have become less frequent due to our busy lives, but our love for each other is the same. Even if we haven’t seen each other in between Walks, when the next one comes, we pick right back up and journey through the night together.
There is an understanding that connects us. There is a cause that connects us. But it was the Overnight that connected us in the first place. For that, I am eternally grateful. I walk because we’re stronger together.
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