The homeless man lay face down, unmoving, on the sidewalk outside an apartment building, blood from knife wounds pooling underneath his body.One person passed by in the early morning. Then another, and another…Video footage from a surveillance camera shows at least seven people going by, some turning their heads to look, others stopping to gawk. One even lifted the homeless man’s body, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk underneath him, before walking away. It wasn’t until after the 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant had been lying there for nearly an hour that emergency workers arrived, and by then, it was too late.
I read that news account regarding an event that took place in New York City several months ago. I was reminded still again that tragic circumstances bring out the best and the worst in people. Last Friday when I was riding out with one our Granbury Police officers we ended being summoned to a major accident. One man was seriously injured in the crash. Before emergency personnel arrived an off duty paramedic, who works here in Granbury, was giving the injured man excellent care. He was off that day and his lunch at a nearby restaurant was interrupted, but he responded instinctively and graciously.
On the other end of the human nature spectrum, I never ceased to be amazed at the inclination of people to gawk and generally interfere when an event of that nature has occurred. Traffic is always heavy at this particular intersection, but slow moving onlookers threatened the occurrence of still another accident in the same location. That is a very common occurrence. Thankfully the officers I work with always completely block traffic near a fatal accident scene in order to provide a shield of privacy for the deceased person as well as to preserve the scene for an investigation.
As human beings, we have the potential to rise to the occasion during a time of crisis and make a difference. And we also have the potential to be so self- absorbed that another person’s tragedy is nothing more than an opportunity to be a selfish onlooker. Declare me guilty. I work with people in crisis everyday. But declare me guilty.
I have an uncanny ability to become so absorbed in my own concerns that I am oblivious to those around me who are bleeding on the pavement under my feet. I don’t mean that literally. What I mean is there are people bleeding and hurting emotionally around me. They are facing job losses, serious illnesses, relational breakdowns, and all forms of discouragement. My self-absorption can cause me not notice what is going in their life. In other instances, I indeed observe what is taking place, and I choose to walk by gawking instead of helping. The consequences of ignoring a cry for help can serious.
The Guatemalan immigrant described in the news story was beaten after he tried to prevent a lady from being assaulted. He was stabbed repeatedly. He apparently died before emergency workers were even called. In a sense, he was the victim of a self-absorbed society.
Oh…the good news is that the man injured in the crash I mentioned is going to recover. I am thankful today for servants who are not so self absorbed that they can rise to the occasion! How about the rest of us? Can we rise to the occasion today?