“The man who hit me went to prison for ten years. Now he is out, and I am still here in this chair.” The young man in the wheelchair spoke slowly, forcing out the sounds that had once come naturally to him. Now every word, every phoneme, required a painstaking effort.
Still I found it difficult to understand his halting speech.
He was still fighting, he said, fighting to walk again. The previous week he’d gotten up and walked five feet, then returned and sat down again, all on his own.
It’s easy to see what a tragedy this is, and there’s clearly one person at fault. But, what’s most tragic is that blaming the driver of the car who hit this man doesn’t do a damn thing to make things any better.
The driver was drunk, of course. For all we know, he may not even remember what happened. The man in the wheelchair, though, will never forget, no matter how many decades the perpetrator spends in prison. The man in the wheelchair now lives in his own kind of prison and will do so for the rest of his life.
Strangely, however, this is not a rant about drunk driving. It should go without saying that no one should drive if they’ve been drinking.
My point today is simply this: Things like this happen because we don’t think. We don’t think that drinking and driving one time will maim or kill someone. We don’t think that our careless comment could wound someone. We don’t think about how our actions might affect others in ways we would have foreseen if we ever made the effort to think at all.
God knows I’m guilty of this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve unintentionally hurt someone by something I’ve said.
Whether we mean for it to happen or not, our words and actions impact other people. I know it’s a cliche but the world would be a lot better place if we remembered that fact.