Ethics on Cicero

Ethical dilemma moment that I swear is real…I know this sounds too incredible to have happened.

Yesterday, Erik and Zora and I were on our way to Hope CRC, in Oak Forest, IL , for me to guest preach. (Hope is where I did my internship, where I was ordained, and was my home congregation for the 3 years of internship and teaching at PSM.)

So, with about 25 minutes before the service starts (yes, we were running a little late…are you surprised?), we are driving south on Cicero Avenue (I think we were in Midlothian, IL at this point). I’m reading my sermon and worrying about the time. Erik is driving. Zora is discussing the appearance of Tinkerbell on a billboard with her pink elephant.

About 1/3 in the road and 2/3 in the fast food driveway a couple blocks ahead of us, there appears to be a garbage bag. Wearing a shoe. And pants. Yes, it is, in fact, a person laying on the ground. (Context: Cicero Avenue is a big busy street. Major artery…)

We stop in our lane, about 12 feet behind the guy in the road. By this point, there are several people assembled. But no one else has stopped behind this man to block traffic. Erik puts the flashers on and gets out of the car.  Someone else is calling the police. A few people are talking to the man.

And, the story gets more incredible: he was in a wheelchair, which is all smashed up, and someone clipped him with their car and drove away.

Erik comes back to car and says that they are being smart and not moving him, he seems pretty calm, and the police have been called. Erik’s first aid training is so out of date that he is a menace. The guy is lucid. There’s nothing we can do, he says, other than use our car to clock traffic.

I am suddenly an ethical mess. I don’t handle extra stuff well this soon before preaching, especially when I’m panicky about being late. But should I be getting out of the car to pray with this guy? No, says Erik. Read your sermon. Stay calm. Pray for him here…he has people taking care of him. That’s what you can do.

But I’m starting to think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. And at this point, I’m not looking like one of the more sympathetic characters. I’m probably the priest or the Levite. Great.

The police come. Erik talks briefly to the cop. (OK, now I’m just irrational, and I think, “What if the cop thinks WE hit the guy, since our car is right here?!”) He gets back in the car and says we’ve done what we can do and we need to go.

So we drive away. And I try to pray for the guy all morning, underneath everything else that’s going on.

I still feel like the priest or the Levite, but I’m trying to think about it this way: everybody’s got their corner of the gospel to hold up, kind of like we are all holding different corners of the sheet. Right then, in that moment, maybe my corner wasn’t to be the comforter or healer, but to be the word-bearer. (I can already hear the ringing opposition from those frustrated with the institutional church…) I’m not sure what I could do in the moment other than sit back and pray, for the man in the street and for the people who were called and equipped to help him.

5 Responses to “Ethics on Cicero”

  1. teri Says:

    what a crazy morning! I hope you were all okay, got there on time, and people heard the Word you had to bear. And I hope the guy is okay!

  2. ellen Says:

    Read Jeannie Stevenson Moessner, about the Good, Self- Differentiated, Samaritan- who did what he could, and then left- to go work and make money, to help support the injured person- and left the injured one in capable hands-who would also do what they knew how to do- comparisons to the Levite are, of course, ineveitable….but not required- be well and blessings on you!

  3. mary allison Says:

    wow, you’re right. that was quite a quandry. maybe your role in that scenario hasn’t ended. the whole thing would make a great sermon, and you can keep holding up your corner of the gospel that way. shoot, with your permission, i might use your stoy in a sermon!

  4. Kirstin Says:

    Yowsers! Sounds like quite the experience and that there were many Good Samaritans on call that morning that beat you to it. You did what you could. Seriously, you could have told Erik to get back in the car and drive so you wouldn’t be late. But you didn’t. You stopped. You waited for more help to arrive. Good work.

  5. Erik V. Says:

    I’m just glad you didn’t call this post De Officiis (sorry, I had to geek out a bit).