aThis morning as I was getting ready for church on this First Day of Unleavened Bread, I got a message on social media from my mother stating that her local church pastor had been rear-ended recently and took Passover at home, leaving the service to be taken care of by a visiting pastor from another area. Then, while I was at dinner, I was in a conversation that was discussing accidents, including a gentleman from Ohio who spent his Passover in the hospital after a car crossed into his lane and hit him head on . To be sure, I can imagine that few people would want to spend any time in the hospital with such an accident, but at least from what I hear both of the people will recover, even if the experience of such an accident is painful. Not all accidents are like the one I participated in as a mock juror, where people have died and lawsuits are springing up for damages. Sometimes the damage is serious, even grievous, but even where the injuries last long there is a way to recover from the damage. After examining the wreck itself, it is worthwhile to examine the damage that comes after the wreck, especially since some of that damage takes a long time to uncover and to recover from–sometimes it takes therapy, sometimes time can heal wounds, and sometimes it leads to lasting changes in others.
When I was in the seventh grade, I had a particularly difficult time when it came to buses. Indeed, within a period of a week or two weeks two straight bus drivers got into accidents reported by police and even a personal injury attorney, but the difference between them was somewhat noteworthy and is worth exploring in some detail. The first accident occurred in the morning, and as was my habit I went to wait at the end of the street where I lived with my mother and brother and grandparents in the rural countryside outside of Plant City, Florida. There was a fairly regular time the bus came to pick me up to take me to the seventh grade school in the ghetto of Plant City, and this particular morning I was waiting long after that time. Bus after bus drove by, most of them just passing through and none of them bothering to pick us up and take us to school. Finally, there came a bus that was sent by the school to pick up those kids who were in the accident, but it was not meant to pick up the kids past the accident along the bus route, so I walked back to my family’s home and asked my grandmother, who was a homemaker, to take me to school. Later on we discovered that our bus driver had been driving while taking sleeping medication, and somehow blanked out before driving straight into a concrete electric pole, totaling the bus. As she was only a few months shy of retirement, she was transferred to the bus garage to work out the remaining months of her time before being put out to pasture, as it was.
Her replacement was a much younger driver, very new at her job, and shortly after beginning our route, she took a wide right turn where she had to cross four lanes of traffic, and managed to run into a car that had found its way into a blind spot on the far right lane, right in front of the house where one of my classmates and fellow members of orchestra lived. The car was somewhat damaged but the bus was more or less intact, except that it was a Friday afternoon and we had to stay at the scene for a couple of hours while the various accident reports were taken, students were interviewed and some complained of whiplash, and eventually another bus came to take us home. The driver was herself a bit of a wreck, blaming herself very harshly for the mistake of getting into an accident, but so far as I can tell she did not suffer any lasting repercussions. While I was a bit late for the usual fried chicken dinner, there was no lasting harm for me either. Being already a person of extreme anxiety, it did not make me any more anxious, and as the driver herself was a friendly and kind-hearted young woman as best as I could see, I did not hold it against her. Sometimes an accident is just an accident.
I know all too well for myself that people are likely to get in accidents particularly often when they are nervous. As a nervous person, this has happened disproportionately often to me. The first time I drove after getting my driver’s license at sixteen, I was sent on a family errand to pick up some medicine at a nearby pharmacy, and I was so nervous about parking while another driver was parking into the spot just in front of me that I accidentally mashed the acceleration and the break at the same time with my foot and had a low-speed accident with a car in the parking lot. As it happened, the damage to the other car was nonexistent, and the damage to our family car was a headlight that was easily replaced. Unfortunately, the person driving the car happened to be the mother of a couple of kids who were on my school bus route and she was with them, so that when I rode the bus for a while I had to endure teasing about the accident, considering they had seen it happen. It was little excuse to say that I was a brand new driver and among the most nervous and anxious people on the planet–even if true those are not the sorts of things that garner a lot of sympathy from other people when it comes to performing fairly ordinary tasks in a competent manner.
Accidents happen, and though we ought to draw lessons from them, at the same time it is of little use to make other people feel bad because they are clumsy, especially if they are so mortifyingly self-aware and self-conscious that blunders and accidents and awkwardness are a metaphysical certainty on a continual basis. For example, as I have told before, I once went out to eat with some friends of mine, and one of my dearest and littlest friends who was sitting next to me accidentally spilled a class of cold water on my suit while we were waiting for our meal to arrive. Again, it is fairly easy to see that someone who was not used to eating out, and whose fine motor control skills were still limited would be a bit clumsy on occasion, and though one laments being doused in cold water, not something I personally enjoy, it is not something where there is actual blame placed on other people. We accept that in life there is time and chance that happen to all of us, and that as we are awkward and clumsy beings who need to be given a fair amount of tolerance, so too we have a responsibility to be understanding and compassionate to those who get into accidents with us . To be sure, we work on avoiding negligence and seek to decrease the chances of accidents, but we cannot eliminate that chance altogether, being people of limited attention and resources and good fortune, as much as we might try.
When accidents happen, we have some obvious steps that we can take. For one, we can stop and take stock of what we did or did not do that allowed the accident to happen. Were we negligent in some fashion, failing to take the proper steps to live safety and avoid causing harm to those around us? If so, then it is time to add safeguards, add external accountability where possible, and to change habits so as to avoid making the same mistakes and having the same kind of accidents over and over again. This is, of course, far easier said than done. Most things are, anyway. We can also take stock and wonder what factors are there about ourselves that make us more susceptible to harm. Do we have extreme sensitivities or vulnerabilities? If so, it will be hard for accidents to happen without a great deal of negative consequences for us. Are there areas of life where we are so conspicuously skilled that we might decide to behave recklessly or avoid giving attention because we rely on certain talents and abilities to rescue us from difficulties? Those are areas where strengths can easily become weaknesses, and we ought to be very careful to those areas as having the potential for trouble as well. We cannot eliminate the likelihood of error, but we can at least learn lessons that make errors less frequent and less costly.
Examining the circumstances of our lives, the repercussions of what we have experienced, and our own personal nature and behavior is an important aspect of living the best life possible. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32: ” Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” What sort of conclusions can we draw from this passage insofar as they relate to the accidents of life? For one, there is the implication that those who frivolously view the Passover symbols, or what others label as sacraments, as possessing magical powers to bring us closer to God without having taken stock of their own lives and their own spiritual state, are likely to eat and drink judgment upon themselves rather than the blessings that they seek. Additionally, we are reminded that if we examine ourselves and judge ourselves, we do not need to be judged by others. Internal stock taking and restraint and divinely aided self-control make external restraint unnecessary. For us to be free to live as we want, we must be good, for to the extent that we cause harm to others, we will find ourselves restrained in some fashion or another .
In examining the need for restraint, which perhaps might sound unusual coming from someone who is writing as I am about matters that few people wish to discuss openly unless they have little choice but to discuss them, there are a few concerns we need to address. For one, we need to distinguish between restraint when it comes to denying reality or avoiding discussion of it as opposed to restraint in behavior that limits how we act to keep within proper bounds of behavior. Certain occasions and situations and matters may require more restraint than others, and someone who is honest and open in writing or conversation need not be unrestrained and reckless with regards to their behavior. At times we may be far more open than we intend to be, at cost to ourselves, and at other times we may find it difficult or impossible to express what we think and feel in ways that others can understand and relate to. It is to these twin problems of communication that we will now turn to assess the damage that results from abuse.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: