It began surprisingly enough, with an accident. While I and a few others were in choir practice one of my friends came in saying that two people needed to come out because something serious had happened. There was soon the sound of screaming and wailing, and those who left did not return, leaving the rest of us to gratify our curiosity later on, to a great degree of shock. While a young lady in the congregation was trying to keep two sisters from hitting each other, but keeping them near enough her to not hit anyone else, a middle aged gentleman had one of the small children run into him, accidentally knocking him down and knocking him cold for what witnesses say was a couple of minutes, leading to his removal to the hospital by ambulance, with an emergency CT scan to see if there was any more serious damage or if the gentleman would merely have a raging headache for the next days. This was the shocking news we received, at any rate, in two installments, the first during announcements and the second at the end of services. By all accounts, the spirited girls themselves were deeply scared at what they had done, being the sort of energetic small children who were too busy with their own affairs, and engaged in their own business, to realize the potential harm to others that their fighting and running around could cause. I remember being such a child myself, and remember how difficult it was to understand the accidents that could follow from what I thought to be entirely innocent pursuits. Even now that is the case, where I am surprised at the repercussions of my own deeds.
The accident immediately took several people away from services. Our retired pastor and his wife went to the hospital to anoint the hospitalized gentleman. The mother and her two children (the third one was home sick with a fever) went home, in a state of considerable distress. The wife and mother-in-law of the hospitalized man were gone as well, and as his wife was a flautist for choir practice and the hymn ensemble, and the mother-in-law a pianist, that meant that another person had to serve as the backup pianist. That backup happened to have another assignment, teaching the Sabbath School class for first through third graders. That teacher, now impressed into last-minute duty as pianist, handed what she had prepared to another one of our teachers, who handed it to me, since I am generally good at dealing with fairly sudden assignments and speaking and discussing the Bible with minimal preparation. When I went off to see who I had to teach, I saw that the custody arrangements had made it so that there was only one student from that age range present today, and he was already starting the discussion with another the teacher who, like me and the lady who gave me the material for class for the younger kids, usually teaches the older kids, including her youngest daughter. I chatted with her a bit, but not finding any more students and not wishing to disrupt the lesson that had just started, I returned to the main hall of services with just enough time to get on stage as the opening song was beginning to perform my usual duties as a violist in our congregation’s hymn ensemble, which was smaller than usual because two of the people were part of the family at the hospital.
It struck me as somewhat odd how many dominoes change when an event happens. On the one hand, I suppose it is a good thing that there are so many people who are able to do multiple tasks, with little notice, so that what needs to be done is done, even with little preparation. On the other hand, all of this shifting around was done within a very small group of people . This suggests a certain vulnerability that makes service brittle, as there are a few people who do a lot, and that when one domino falls, a lot of other people are pulled to fill in the gaps. On the other hand, it bodes well that there are at least a few people who are able to do many things, and well, as it provides at least some sort of help when something goes wrong. I am a person who has been involved in a great deal of accidents , with little but bad instincts and incredibly bad timing to explain for it. I am an accident-prone person in large part because I am an incredibly anxious person, and extremely self-conscious as well, which only exacerbates my native nervousness. To be sure, there are plenty of other people whose anxiety and nervousness exacerbates whatever accident-prone tendencies they have as well, and that is something I can relate to. At times we exacerbate our tendency to create accidents by being self-absorbed and not thinking about how our behavior affects other people.
What sort of logistics allow us to deal with the accidents of life? For one, we have to know the skills we have, and be able to practice those and hone them. For another, we have to know the institutions and surroundings in which we live and move. We are brittle people–fragile, easy to wound with words, with glances, and with our actions. And if we realize that we are brittle people, sensitive, somewhat easy to harm, we might act with gentleness and consideration for other people too. We often easily understand our own sensitivities, but we do not understand the fact that others are just as sensitive as we are. When we are concerned with our own needs, our own desires, our own longings, we do not always understand the way that our actions have consequences and repercussions. We put ourselves in harm’s way, by creating an environment where accidents happen easily, and while we may be horrified at the way that we hurt others, what would we have to do to keep as much of the hurt as possible from happening in the first place? How do we act to prevent, rather than simply respond or react to what has already happened that we were not wise or lucky enough to prevent in the first place? Yet our very presence creates risk and danger, and yet we are commanded to engage anyway. The goal is not to remove all risk of danger, for we are placed in harm’s way very often. The goal is to gain wisdom and understanding, through persevering in spite of risk, in learning wisdom and discretion, in growing into the sort of people who respect others and their space and their sensitivities, while remaining honest about our own needs and sensitivities. In that context, accidents will happen, despite our best efforts. Yet, God willing, they will happen less often as we grow in wisdom and understanding, and we will be able to overcome them better. To wait until we have attained perfection before we engage with others is to wait forever, for we will never reach that perfection that is free from all error so long as we live and breathe. God willing, though, we can at least reach maturity. For some of us, that is miraculous enough.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: