The Drowning Man


The Drowning Man

It has been an interesting week. While serving on a jury in a case involving the abuse of children I found out about the school shooting in Florida.

After the flurry of, “thoughts and prayers” surfaced from our elected officials we quickly started to see many change their focus and say things like:

  • “Gun control won’t help – a determined criminal will always find a way.”
  • “Guns don’t kill people – people do.”
  • “It’s a mental health issue.”

Allow me to tell you a little about what I learned about serving on a jury in a criminal trial involving abuse of children:

  • The system isn’t perfect
  • Not all criminals get caught
  • Not every case of child abuse can be prevented
  • Simply having laws on the books doesn’t prevent determined people from hurting children

BUT, I also learned…

  • Justice does happen
  • Sometimes the system catches the person and we get to take a dangerous criminal off the street
  • Vulnerable children need to believe that there are adults that will listen to their cries and try to help
  • An imperfect system is vastly superior to no system at all

As a society we have learned to do many things – not because they guarantee our safety but because they help – even marginally – and saving some lives is better than saving none.

  • We learned to wear seat-belts in the car because they reduce (not eliminate) deaths and the seriousness of injury in a crash
  • We put our small children in the back seat because it is safer and reduces (not eliminates) their chance of death or serious harm in an accident
  • We vaccinate our children because it reduces (not eliminates) the chance that they will die or get seriously ill from preventable diseases
  • We don’t allow the legal sale of alcohol or tobacco to children because it reduces (not eliminates) their chances of being harmed

There is a story that is told of fellow who was stuck on his rooftop during a flood.

During the flood the man was able to climb up onto the roof of his home and he began praying to God for help.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So, the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So, the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So, the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

 Thoughts and prayers are fine but like the story of the man during the flood they only work if:

  • We use the intellect God gave us to think up solutions and then implement them
  • If we pray for the strength and fortitude to face failure and then keep trying until something works

During the trial we learned about some children that were being hurt at home by adults that were meant to be their caretakers. Unfortunately, many people who should have noticed and cared did nothing. But, just like in the story of the drowning man, opportunities for escape and help kept presenting themselves until finally – unlike the drowning man in the story – the children finally mustered up the courage and faith to grab onto one of them and get help and get out and today with the help of the courts, the judge, the prosecutor and a jury made up of my neighbors we successfully took a dangerous man off the streets and made the world marginally safer.

I know that the problem of gun violence can seem too big to solve and I can’t think of any one perfect solution that will prevent all gun violence but I will not let the desire for the “perfect” solution be the enemy of demanding we use our power to at least make things marginally better.

The day is short and the task is great
But remember that it is not incumbent upon you to finish the task,
but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.

There is much to do – let’s get started…

You may also appreciate Reaction to the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando , Let Me Be A Sponge


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