Two encounters I had recently made me do some soul-searching, and made we wonder how others would handle these situations. So, I’ll relate the scenarios with the hope that others might share how they would respond. I’m curious about this in part because I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how I responded to either one, and in part because I think that it might be such day-to-day encounters that reveal to us just how seriously we take our faith. Of course, as with any encounter in life, what we hope we would do, or what we say we would do, can often be quite different than what we actually end up doing. All the same, I am curious as to what others think they might have done in these situations.
(1) I was sitting on the back of the bus one night next to three other fellows who were on their way to a downtown club. They looked like the frat sort and they were all quite a bit larger than me. They had obviously had a few drinks before heading out and were all acting tough. In the midst of their banter one fellow declared: “Yo, man, I’m gonna rape a girl tonight!” Immediately a series of thoughts ran rapidly through my mind.
I thought about saying and doing nothing. I mean, these fellows were big and they were drunk and they were acting aggressively. I didn’t particularly feel like getting my ass kicked. But is it possible to ignore that sort of comment? What if this fellow wasn’t just “talking tough,” what if he actually did rape a girl that night? Wouldn’t I share in the responsibility if I sat by silently and said nothing when he announced his intentions? Or maybe I shouldn’t say anything, maybe I should just jump in and start swinging. I’ve known too many people that have encountered sexual violence and I know how absolutely horrible and shattering sexual violence is. Maybe it would be worth getting my ass kicked just to break that fellow’s nose and show him he can’t go around glorifying or trivializing rape. Yet wouldn’t I then just be perpetuating and embracing just another manifestation of the male violence that I claim to hate?
So, if you were me sitting next to these fellows at that moment, what would you do?
(2) I sometimes enjoy going for late night walks around my neighbourhood and I always make sure I carry a lighter when I walk (lighters make for great conversation starters — plus it’s good to have something in your pocket to hold onto when you’re walking around the ghetto late at night, but that’s a different story). Thus, when a fellow stopped me and asked if I had a lighter I didn’t hesitate to say that I did. However, I quickly realized that this fellow wasn’t interested in smoking cigarettes. As I pulled out my lighter, he pulled out a glass pipe and a ten dollar crack rock. I was taken a little off guard. It wasn’t that I was unaccustomed to being around people smoking crack — I see enough of that in the alleyways and streets around my house — it’s just that I didn’t expect the fellow to start smoking right there and then with my lighter. If I let him use my lighter wouldn’t I be supporting his addiction? Yet wouldn’t he find a light in the next few minutes anyway? If I let him use my lighter couldn’t I use that as an opportunity to share a few much needed good and gentle words with him?
So, if you were me standing on the sidewalk that night holding a lighter, what would you do?