Have you ever experienced an incident in your life, where you were a witness to something that haunts you, yet motivates you at the same time? I can remember such a time and I can see now by reflecting back on it, how it has motivated and altered the course of my life. When my children were little I would bring them to the park near our house. This one particular autumn afternoon, we were having a snack on one of the picnic tables. It was such a beautiful day and many families were there doing the same as us. We were all having fun drinking our apple cider and eating our cinnamon donuts when, we started to hear this Father screaming obscenities at his child. This child was sitting in a stroller not doing or saying anything, just absorbing the verbal and physical attacks. His older brother, watched in horror as all of us did. His voice echoed over the hills and I kept expecting him to stop and he didn’t. He continued to the point of extreme uncomfortability. It became so destructive and humiliating, I didn’t know what to do, but wanted to do something. I was in my twenties and I never witnessed such a public display of abuse on a child like this. Everything in me was feeling the blows that this child did and they weren’t aimed at me. I began to look at the crowd and they too, were paused in horror and disbelief. After what appeared to be a long time of threats, berating, physical blows, cursing and screaming like a lunatic, he in a huff stormed off and I was left in the aftermath shaking and in tears of we had just witnessed. We too, decided to leave as our fun day was spoiled.
As we walked to the car another family leaving said to me, don’t worry, I got his license plate number and I am going to report him. All I could think was, “Thank God, someone thought to do something!” this man needed to be stopped. To this day, I regret that I said nothing, did nothing, but stare in disbelief. I was shaken and concerned for those kids, yet I kept silent. In my defense, I could say, that as he was acting out, I felt scared as though he were speaking to me, and he was directing his anger to a child strapped in a stroller. These were the days before cell phones, where I could not call the police, video tape or take a picture of what was happening. I can still hear his hurtful words to this very day. How often do we find ourselves in situations that we know are wrong and do nothing? Is it fear, immaturity or not caring enough, by thinking it’s none of my business nor my responsibility or problem? There are times in life when we should be silent, because we can put our children in jeopardy, but there are also times that we need to confront situations, that we know to be wrong and guide them to be right. We are not supposed to judge the degree of sin or what is going to happen to somebody, but we are supposed to judge what is morally right from wrong. Scriptures tells us in,
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. Malachi 3:18 “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Scripture refers to judging over 700 times. That’s enough times to study more closely and respond accordingly. It wasn’t until God placed this memory on my heart to write in this blog, that I realized this memory affected me in a way that subconsciously motivated me. Years later, from this incident, I have adopted an abused boy and find myself now working for a mission agency placing these children, legally removed from their biological parents, due to horrendous circumstances, into loving forever families. As a Franciscan, it amazes me how God doesn’t waste opportunities to turn something bad into good. He is the master recycler and I am grateful to be a wasteful product he reuses in his recycling process.