Caleb Snell used a black Sharpie to write his suicide note on a sheet of white poster board. Then he stood at the intersection of University Drive and Jordan Lane, waving the sign around for people to see.
To the rest of the world, it didn’t look like a suicide note. All it said was this: You are loved. The world is better with you in it.
But for Caleb, it was intended to be his one, last task before he took his own life.
Caleb’s life had been pretty good until everything came crashing down. The military denied his attempt to enlist because of a minor health issue. He got fired. He had three weeks to get out of his apartment, and he didn’t have a place to go once he moved out.
“Everything I’d kind of been working for kind of fell apart,” Caleb said.
He struggled with depression all his life, but this was worse. This was the breaking point.
“This is the amount of trash I can deal with in this life,” Caleb thought.
Then, as he was driving one day, God spoke to him — not in an audible voice, but in a definite “vibe,” Caleb said. He understood God wanted him to make a sign that read, “You are loved,” and stand in the middle of University Drive.
“OK God, cool. I’m going to go do that, but after I get done doing this, I’m definitely going to take my life,” Caleb said.
He wrote the first signs as a kind of tongue-in-cheek way of letting the world know he was worthy of love. It was a stick-it-to-them act for those who didn’t care enough to help him out, something right between ironic and sarcastic.
“I was telling the world I was worthy of love, and I was telling the world that the world would be better with me in it, but y’all would never know because after this week, I’m done,” Caleb said.
He got up every morning at 6 a.m. in the cold-for-Alabama fall weather and stood on the busy intersection with his sign. Some days he stood outside for four hours, waving his sign around and cheering people up.
“I didn’t have a job, so I had plenty of time,” Caleb said.
If you’re reading this outside of the Huntsville, Alabama, area, it’s important to note that this corner of University Drive is not the intersection you want to be standing on during rush hour. Most people would have asked God if He was sure of that location, or if maybe He could move it to a residential area with slower drivers.
Caleb didn’t question it, though. He just did what those holy vibes told him to do.
By the third day, he was having a blast. He had his headphones on, blaring music in his ears, while he danced around with the signs. He thought his mission was over at the end of the week, but God had other plans.
Peace and Love
After that first week, Caleb quit for while, but the feeling he should return to the intersection grew so strong he couldn’t ignore it.
He decided he wanted to live, and his life’s purpose was found in between the lines of the handwritten signs he held.
“As the days went by, God started to heal me,” Caleb said. “I found healing and love and compassion and empathy and sympathy for people, and I honestly found my passion for helping other people, like myself, who struggle with depression and feel like there’s nobody else out there.”
Since 2017, Caleb has somewhat consistently been a Huntsville landmark, especially in the northwest part of the city.
“Now, honestly, when I go out there to do it, it’s almost like therapy for me,” Caleb said. “I literally just have a blast. I’ve been out there and … felt such peace and love that I’ve been brought to tears looking at the cars driving by and in my mind going, ‘I love you.’”
He’s had some heartwarming interactions, too. One woman walked through the intersection to tell Caleb that her son committed suicide a year ago. Just a few minutes earlier, she was driving through Huntsville, praying to God that if He didn’t send her a sign, she was going to kill herself and join her son.
Then she passed Caleb. It was her sign that she needed to keep on living.
Another driver handed him a note that read, “This morning I heavily contemplated suicide. … I’m going through one of the roughest weeks ever. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being out here today. You are a wonderful soul. God bless.”
That note is taped to Caleb’s bathroom mirror to remind him why he gets up and does what he does every day.
Through social media and different conversations, Caleb knows there are at least 20 people who were thinking about suicide but changed their minds after seeing his signs.
“I’m just extremely honored and humbled that God is using me in such a way because I know how dark that place can be,” Caleb said.
He’s also trying to get the #youareloved movement off the ground, reminding folks they’re needed here.
“My whole goal or hope is that God will spread this across the country because we just have so much hate and un-acceptance and bitterness toward our own people,” Caleb said.
If you’re ever driving around town and happen upon Caleb, be sure to wave back or honk to show your support.