I remember being told when I was a young man that I should have to walk in another person’s moccasins before I had any right to judge either him or her. It is a curious saying because we really don’t have any right to judge anybody, whether we are or aren’t shod in that person’s shoes. Still, we commonly iterate, to those willing to listen, the necessity of reserving judgment until we have walked a mile in the person’s shoes.
The origins of the saying I find fascinating. There is a theory, during the time that Rome was the power in the known world, a Roman soldier could legally require any one to carry his pack for a mile. While I don’t profess to be a Biblical scholar, I remember Jesus somewhere suggesting one should carry it a second mile as a sacrifice, gift, or to have a greater understanding of the other’s lot. Native Americans have been credited with the origin of the phrase suggesting one can’t really understand someone else unless one “lives the other’s life” or “walks in the other’s shoes,” so to speak.
My favorite rendering of the particular admonition against judgment comes from popular culture. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells Scout the following, “First of all,…if you learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
The point is one may want to refrain from casting stones particularly where we all seem to reside, these days, in glass houses. That seems particularly appropriate for us today where we have so much paper-space committed to reporting who among our friends and neighbors has been arrested for this offense or that.
The “whose been arrested” page is one of the more popular pages in any newspaper. I am sure this says something altogether unflattering about human nature; that we are drawn to reveling in the misery of others. I am sure it numbers among the reasons we need both a Savior and saving.
We are the same people prone to driving slowly by accident sites to get a good view of the carnage. We are the same people who used to turn out in droves to witness courthouse hangings and public whippings. There is so much about humanity which is repulsive, if we’re being completely honest.
I can’t help but feel compassion for the people depicted on the pages of the paper reporting just whom has been arrested. I regret the ridicule and embarrassment to which they are subjected which extends past them personally to detrimentally impact their family and friends. The family and friends of the people depicted are innocents. They haven’t done anything for which to be publicly shamed, but they are anyway.
I had a friend of mine who was once arrested for something of which he would, eventually, be completely cleared. As the case turned out, he couldn’t have been anymore innocent of with what he had been accused. There was hard data of his being innocent of the charge, so much so he probably shouldn’t have ever been made to answer for the offense’s commission. He just hadn’t done anything of the sort.
He told me he used to have nightmares about his youngest son flying into his arms when he returned to his house upon making the required bail. The little fellow’s chest was heaving with heavy sobs and the child was crying and clutching his daddy so hard it made speaking difficult for either the father or the child. The young fellow lamented, “Daddy, I don’t want you to go to jail!”
The experience was horrific. While he was fully exonerated, nothing can ever take from him the memory of his child’s terror, concern, and the obvious heart-brake this child felt as he clutched a father he so dearly and completely adored.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if people had opened the paper, where this man’s “mug-shot” had appeared, and been mindful his appearing on those pages didn’t mean the man had committed any crime? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if people reading about his being charged had remembered our Constitution required that every person whose picture appeared on the pages of the local paper, in a “mug-shot” section, is entitled to be beholden as innocent until there remains no reasonable doubt as to his guilt?
Wouldn’t it be swell for people to remember the people on these pages may not have done anything? We don’t know for sure until the matter is put to trial and sometimes don’t even know afterwards.
Guilty or not, these people have families, some with small children who will be both scared and devastated. Maybe we should consider that common decency dictates our taking much less enjoyment in another’s misery. Maybe there will be a day we will be too decent to slow down so we can view carnage. Maybe there will be a day we will stay home and pray for the condemned and not show up to enjoy his or her flailing-away in agony.
Wouldn’t that be something? C’mon people, surely we are better than this! Oh well, it’s just your old Uncle Abe and I am still up here SHOUTING FROM THE MOUNTAIN-TOP!