There, But For The Grace Of God
My eyes slid past the title, Inmate Roster as of November 7, 2013 like a foot slipping on an icy concrete step. Nothing in the sterile article arrested my gaze, caught my skid. The arid style was dryer than the voice of an ancient prophet crying in the desert. Then I remembered the challenge from the Daily Prompt: Connect The Dots. I had never participated before, so I decided to jump off the bridge.
Disinterested, I glanced through the names. Seeing none I recognized, I sighed with relief. But, what would I have thought, had a former class mate, or neighbor been on the list? Would memories have replayed themselves in my mind? Would I have felt sorrow and pity? I lost my objectivity, suddenly caring
What if I have been closer to a place on that list than I imagined? Everyday I make choices. Sometimes, I am not very bright. Teenagers thrive on thrills. Dares demonstrate bravery and belonging. Maybe it was slipping on a thong under my skirt in a store, or sneaking into a bar, underage. And, twenty-somethings find other, more subtle rebellion. Some stop signs are so irritating, so irrelevant, that it is almost a duty to drive directly through them.
What if something happened? What if that store manager clamped his strong hand on my wrist and waited for a police car. There could have been a fight in that little bar, that I had no part in, and my real age discovered. And that stop sign that could have saved me from an accident, had not.
Then, my name would be in the paper! The legal machinery would have already crushed me and ground me into fine dust. Although my family would have bravely stood with me, I would know what they thought of me. And, now, my name would be in the paper, for anyone to see. I could not just run down the street picking up the papers before people read them. And I would live in fear that anyone who read, will know I was WWC, or DUI, or serving time.
Suddenly, I had empathy for the names, each one attached to a real person. Someone on that list, having believed they had nothing to fear, might not belong there. Perhaps this was their first time, and they were unlucky. This might have been the latest in a long string, and their luck ran out. Maybe they had acted ignorantly, or they meant to do it.
Is this a life-changing article for me? Will I go forth, and do no evil? Maybe. But, I have always been flawed, and nothing can change that. What I hope is that I have a little more compassion, a little more sympathy for those who make mistakes. That isn’t to mean that we should not pay the price for our sins. But, we should hate the sin and love the sinner.