ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

LEADING WITH COMPASSION

I understand why the story is such big news.  Honestly – I do.

You know which story I’m talking about, don’t you?  It has all of the elements that arouse public interest: love between two attractive people gone horribly wrong, people of faith doing sinful things, innocent children suddenly deprived of both parents, mystery.  This isn’t a news story, it’s an episode of “Law & Order” playing out before our very eyes.

And evidently it makes us crazy that we don’t know all the answers RIGHT NOW!  At least, it prompts us to wonder and to speculate and to pontificate.

I was visiting a local television station’s web site, and they had an on-line message board linked to their story about the tragedy.  Evidently in the absence of real information, we’re inclined to fill the cybernetic void with our own thoughts and ideas.

“Just another example of why guns should be banned,” wrote one person.  “Period!”

As you might expect, that set off a chain of 30 or 40 virulent responses, most of which were aimed at the gun-banner.  The kinder responses were along these lines: “People who want to hurt people will find a way no matter what the law says.  The rights of law-abiding citizens should not be taken away because of the actions of others.”

Some were quite creative in their responses.  I especially like the tongue-in-cheek tone of this one: “The number of physicians in the U.S., 700,000.  Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year, 120,000.  Accidental deaths per physician, 0.171 (statistics courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).  The number of gun owners in the U.S., 80 million.  The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, 1,500.  The number of accidental deaths per gun owner, .000188 (statistics courtesy of the FBI).  So statistically, doctors are 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners!  Remember: guns don’t kill people, doctors do!  We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand! (I’m kidding, of course.)  But out of concern for the public at large I have withheld the statistics on lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention!”

Other writers decided they didn’t need to wait for the facts of the case to filter in.  “The real question is, what did he do to cause his wife to decide to kill him?” wrote one observer.  “Why was she so desperate that she resorted to killing her husband/source of income to get out of a situation?  Obviously, she didn’t see any other way out.”

“Maybe the problem is not guns,” another writer speculated, “but whatever guilt, shame and other negative pressures their religious life placed on her.”

I was beginning to wonder if everyone writing on the message board was going to suddenly break out in an updated version of “Gee, Officer Krupke” from “West Side Story” – “The trouble is she’s crazy!”  “The trouble is he stinks!”  “The trouble is God’s lazy!”  “The trouble is gun links!” – when finally someone wrote something that resonated with me: “At this point in time we do not know the motive.  It would be premature to even guess.  The tragic loss for the children is foremost in my mind.  Their father dead, their mother accused, their lives torn apart, never to be put back together again.  My prayers are for them.”

As are mine.  Sure, I’m curious about what happened . . . and why.  But experience tells me that eventually it will all come out in agonizingly painful detail.  We’ll all know everything we need to know – and then some.  Meanwhile, it is always good to lead with compassion, and leave judgment to the professionals.

Whether or not that’s what they do on “Law & Order.”

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.