It is now 4 am and I can’t sleep. I have tried everything I could think of to try to wipe the image from my mind. I created funny advertising slogans- Fox News, Fair and Balanced (oh,wait, that might not be mine). I played several rounds of mental golf (if only I played this well during the daylight, someone else might actually witness my greatness). I prayed.
But still I am haunted by that image- the shallow breathing, the broken, bloody teeth, the pool of blood congealing around his head.
Perhaps I should back up. Early this afternoon, Liz and I were driving through the city. I was turning a corner about a half-mile from my apartment. As I scanned the intersection I saw a body, lying in the middle of the street, not moving. It was utterly shocking and surreal.
Confession #1– My first impulse was to pretend I didn’t see anything and to keep driving. That section of the city isn’t the safest for a white person to wander around in, and a small crowd had assembled on the sidewalk. Surely, I reasoned, they had already called 911 and someone would help that man, lying limply in a pool of blood.
But I knew that wasn’t right and so I stopped. Liz and I ran down the street, asking those we passed if anyone had called for help. One lady was on the phone, but she was talking to a friend. Everyone else seemed to be content to gawk. No one even went near the man. We ran out into the street and while Liz called the paramedics, I went and stood by the man, making sure that no one ran over him.
Confession #2– I had no idea what to do. I looked down at this man, lying their bleeding beside me, and had no inkling of how to help him. I could see that he was breathing, albeit very shallowly. I could see that he had a head wound, but didn’t have any idea what to do about it. I asked him if he could hear me. I told him help was coming. I tried to find out if anyone knew what had happened to him. But I was totally incapable of helping this man. I knew that I shouldn’t move him. I was afraid to touch him. I stood there, impotently staring at a person who very well might have been dying before my eyes.
Confession #3– The primary emotion that I felt as I stood there wasn’t compassion, it was anger. I did feel compassion for the man, but the anger was much more acute. As I asked those standing on the sidewalk if they had seen what happened, a picture emerged. This man had been jumped by a group of thugs in the middle of a busy street, in the middle of the afternoon, and not one person had attempted to interfere or could identify the assailants, or had even bothered to call the authorities. And as they stood there, staring dumbly at this wounded man, no one really seemed to care. It was infuriating.
Confession #4– I am a hypocrite. That sense of judgment that I felt, looking at those standing around, might have made me feel superior, but if I’m honest about it, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently, had I been in their shoes. Would I have jumped in and risked my neck to save someone I didn’t know against potentially armed street toughs? I’m not totally sure that I would. And if I saw scenes like that every day, like many who live in the poorer sections of this violent city do, would I become jaded and afraid to talk about the things that I witnessed? I can’t honestly say (see confession #1).
Confession #5– I froze in the moment. Since I was a little kid, I have always had these fantasies of heroism- stopping a robbery in progress, rescuing a baby from a wild dingo, single-handedly eradicating hip hop, that kind of thing. However, when actually confronted with a situation where I could have helped, I froze. Because I had a skill that I could have used, but I didn’t. I have the ear of the God of the universe, and I never gave him a shout. I could have knelt beside that man and prayed aloud, asking for God’s protection and healing, but I didn’t. I might have missed an opportunity to speak grace into that man’s world. I failed.
God, please be with that injured man. I’m sorry I didn’t ask sooner.