Whose business IS it, pray tell?

Posted by on 02.29.08 | 4 Comments
Filed Under Uncategorized

I had an odd moment yesterday.

I work at a child abuse intervention and advocacy center. We serve the community primarily by providing comprehensive medical evaluations for children who are suspected of having been abused; therapy for abused or neglected children without private insurance and prevention and education programs for professionals and the community at large. So I work with the issues of neglect, abuse and unkindness of the most unsavory sort every day.

During an extremely busy day, I jumped in my car and high-tailed it to a drive through a few blocks away from my office to grab some lunch. While sitting at the drive through window, I watched an obviously distraught and angry young woman in her mid-20′s walk down the sidewalk a few feet in front of my car, followed by a hang-dog young man, with his hands in his baggy-pants pockets. She was berating him, turning around to yell at him, and then walking a few more steps and then turning around to again yell at him. He slumped a little further with each interchange, and something happened inside me.

Of course I didn’t know what they were talking about. For all I know, the young man may have done something truly horrible, like running over the woman’s grandmother. More likely, he’d been careless, or oblivious, or looked the wrong way at the woman, or looked, god-forbid, at another woman (who was not angry at him all the time)…

As I drove by them after picking up my food, I wanted to roll down my window and say to them both: “Young man, do NOT take this kind of berating from anyone, ever, for any reason.” and to the young woman I wanted to say, “Angry one, make sure that your level of rage fits the crime. If you’re really sure it does, then make your distress known in a way that doesn’t belittle another human being.”

Kindness is a complex animal. It doesn’t always look the same way—it’s not mushy or even soft-spoken. Sometimes it’s very clear and unequivocal. Sometimes kindness looks down the road and sees that the guilt that is being developed in the moment is going to break the heart of the one who currently sees himself/herself as righteously indignant…

What did I do with the tableau in front of me?? Nothing. Drove within 10 feet of them as I left with my carne asada burrito and heard a mantra in my head:, “It’s none of your business, Beth”. The young man who was facing the car, looked at me, helplessly and with shame. The young woman had her back to the car and never even stopped yelling.

I’m not so sure it wasn’t ‘ my’ business. When is it our business? If/when she hit him? Would I have said or done something if the young man had been a child? Probably. What makes it permissible, at least in our culture, to allow adults to emotionally abuse each other and we turn our heads? What kind of bastardization is it of our civil rights? Where is the heart of our civil responsibility?

Would I have said something if I’d been walking through this interchange instead of driving? (Which on many days I would have been doing.) Was it the barrier (or protection) of the vehicle that kept me from following my heart…from being kind?

How responsible are we for speaking up when we see other hearts being battered and broken, knowing that we know nothing about causes and history, reasons and alibis? And that, in the long run, possibly the only thing that matters is kindness?

I’d love to know your thoughts, reactions, responses or wisdom.




have your say

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. Subscribe to these comments.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>