A Grown Man Crying

Today I drove again on Sligo Creek Parkway and past its intersection with Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. I remembered again being halted here by a minor accident. I remember it vividly, because standing beside the bent fender of his new car was a grown man crying. He was crying as in wiping tears from his wet face. He was middle aged and dressed well, wearing glasses, and Asian in appearance. I was touched by this sight, and remember it every time I pass this spot. This has gone on for over 25 years.

Where I grew up in the South we had an expression about "enough to make a grown man cry." It was usually heard in a humorous or self-deprecating way. Someone got his tax bill and said it was "enough to make a grown man cry." Not that he actually did cry, you understood. It might be used when a son-in-law quit his job, when a wife spent too much in the beauty parlor, or when the football team lost on a last-minute fumble. 

It did not seem to an observer that the accident on Sligo Creek was enough to make a grown man cry. Some kids out riding around might have laughed at the man. Most people likely failed to notice, or noticed and thought little about it.

I thought much about it, but did nothing except wait until I could pull around and drive on. I did not stop and introduce myself and offer assistance. In other words, I did the same thing everyone else did but with different feelings. Today as I replayed this scene in my head I wished that I had stopped and tried to help.

It appears to be the case that the suffering of others is concerning to some people and not to others. How do people get to be one way or the other?

Painting of "The Good Samaritan"Is it our upbringing? But if it were, how do you account for the fact that children raised in the same home by the same parents and educated in the same schools have totally different feelings?

Is it our religion? I think not. Religious people can be as selfish and uncaring as anyone else. In fact, in the story Jesus told about the man robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho, the religious people passed on by him, and it was the pagan (a.k.a. the "good Samaritan") who stopped to help.

Is it our heredity? I know there are researchers who propose that something in our genes causes us to be generous or selfish, liberal or conservative. But my mother was more caring and my father less so in these circumstances, and I am descended from them both.

It seems like more of a choice to me. But where does the will to make such choices come from? Self preservation is certainly a powerful instinct, and to spend our resources helping others, or even caring about them, is to divert something that otherwise could have served our own needs. It seems to run counter to "natural" tendencies. If there are plausible arguments for the existence of God, this could be one.

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