A few years ago I was heading to work in Manhattan. My typical commute involved a bus ride to the Staten Island Ferry, where a quick boat ride would leave me at Battery Park. From there it was a short walk or even shorter subway ride to work near the Brooklyn Bridge.
The commute is a typically uneventful one, full of all the usual sights and sounds… and smells. But there was one day that was a little different for me. I remember it because by chance, I ran into my brother-in-law Louie that day while walking through the ferry terminal. That’s when we saw two women suddenly and violently going at it right by the turnstiles. Someone cut in front of someone else. I couldn’t tell you who, but it was obviously someone’s last straw, on what was probably an already stressful morning. The fight mostly consisted of a lot of hair pulling. I’m sure if we had cell phones with video capability back then, it would have probably been worth a few thousands hits on Facebook or YouTube.
Most people seeing what was going on, either walked by, or stood around and watched. Not much different than today really. No one wanted to get involved. To my surprise, one person did. Me. I’m not known for these kind of things, I couldn’t tell you what went through my mind as I got in-between them long enough for them to go their separate ways. It didn’t seem like the reason they were going at it was at all worth it though.
The whole incident lasted probably two or three minutes at the most. I don’t think either of the ladies said anything to me during or after, but I think I recall getting a scratch or two. After it was over, I rejoined my brother-in-law, and we made our way towards the ferry, which was now boarding. I remember him telling me that I was crazy to get involved. Something could’ve happened to you. It’s just not worth it.
It’s just not worth it…
I get it really. self-preservation is a powerful thing. People don’t want to get involved not because of what might happen to someone else, but what might happen to themselves. I’m no different, and as much as I’d like to think my bravery and selflessness goes beyond breaking up a little skirmish between women, let me tell you another story.
I was dating a girl that lived on the west side, somewhere in the upper 50’s in New York City, again in a time before cell phones if I recall correctly. I pulled up to her building in the early morning, but she couldn’t get out of the car yet. Why? Because right in front of us were a large group of young men pounding away on one lone guy. He was trying to run, but they would let him get too far away. This went on for an uncomfortably long time, maybe though not as long as is felt.
Here I was, the “righter of ferry terminal wrongs”, unwilling to jump into this new fray. I think part of me felt like I should and I think I may recall warring over it, though probably not that strongly. My girlfriend at the time didn’t want me to play any part in it. When the “fight” got far enough down the street, she ran to her home and I think she made me promise I wouldn’t get involved. Again, it wasn’t a hard promise to keep. I was absolutely afraid of what could’ve happened to me.
I still felt guilty over it.
It’s just not worth it…
It keeps coming back to that. What is worth it? Is it knowing a person? Is enough worth ascribed to someone based on relationship, that only then should you or could you interject yourself into someone else’s altercation for the sake of peace or in the immediate sense, that person’s survival? Is the bigger question, why am I thinking about this right now?
A little over a week ago, there was a video of a woman here in New York City getting brutally attacked while on the way to Church. The security video from the lobby of an office building not only caught the attack, but also caught two security guards standing around just inside the building, only a few feet away, doing nothing. After the attack, while the women lay out on the concrete walk, it looked as if one of the guards was making his way out to help her, but in reality it ends up looking like he is closing the glass door.
It’s just not worth it…
Around the same time, another incident showed a man getting pummeled and then choked out on a train. His assailant left him unconscious on the floor of whatever subway they were riding. At least the first incident was caught on a security camera, this time someone willingly stood by with their phone and filmed it from start to finish. Other people were also witnessing it happen, and a few of them simple got out of the way to avoid being caught in the crossfire of this angry man’s wrath.
It’s just not worth it.
I’m not begrudging the people in either scenario. Like I said earlier, self-preservation is a hell of a drug. I put myself in both those scenarios and I don’t know if I’m brave enough to do anything about it. I’d like to think I’d throw my body across them, to protect them, maybe even protecting myself a little in the process. To be honest, I’m not much of a fighter, I’m more of a talker. I like to reason with people, but who knows what can happen in those incidents. That’s why for some, it’s just not worth it.
But it should be, shouldn’t it?
Saving some one’s life should be worth it. It should be worth putting the phone down to confront evil. It should be worth the entire subway car rising up and making someone hurting someone else think twice. It should be worth two large security guards running outside to protect a women being brutally attacked.
It should be worth it.
I’m not trying to shame anyone. I’m wrestling with it right now. I can’t honestly say I would do anything impactful. Of course, I’d like to think I would. We all think the best part of us would rise up and move towards a righteous cause. That it would overcome the fear and dread of the moment.
While we still had church in the city, before we closed our doors for good, I was the perpetual usher, always camped out in the back near the doors. During our time there, the city had another smaller terrorist attack. I remember the Sunday after feeling a little more apprehensive. I only hope I would’ve done something heroic if faced with the situation. I can only hope I’d give people a chance to live. It has to be worth it. Yet, I’m thankful I never got the chance to know for sure.
These moments when we have to choose what’s worth the sacrifice? The only thing it shows me is how utterly depraved we can be at times.
We want to pick out the easy evil. The easy evil is the guy pummeling others into submission. The easy evil is a defenseless woman violently knocked to the ground.
The easy evil are dictators and leaders who outwardly suppress freedoms.
The easy evil is big and bold and hides the little evils behind it. The one who records the attacks and does nothing. The little evil that ignores the women on the ground and walks away.
The little evils are the ones who use politics to avoid confronting the truth of their own nature.
We like the easy evils, the big things we can point to because it makes us look innocent in comparison.
We can hide our own natures behind those easy evils. We can point to those big obvious things so no one sees our smaller day to day evils, but they never go away. They’ll always convict us if we are honest with ourselves.
I guess that’s why the world really does need a Savior.
I’m thankful he didn’t say, “it’s just not worth it…”
I mean judging by our behavior he’d be right, I’m just glad he didn’t say it.
Thank you for deeming us worth it, despite us. Despite the us that would rather film a tragedy instead of help prevent it. Close a door instead of helping a person. Help us examine ourselves when faced with those crossroad moments. Give us wisdom and courage for better choices that may be hard but definitely worth it.
Finally Lord, may you pour out grace and mercy to us, whatever our choices may be. Because we know even with all that wisdom and courage given to us, we will still sometimes make the wrong choice, and we know grace and mercy isn’t for those that do the right thing, it’s for those that do the wrong thing, like we are inclined to do.
In Jesus name