When I was a boy I was playing in the yard with my friend from across the street. He got a puppy for Christmas and it dug a hole deep enough to crawl under the fence and escape the back yard. As it ran across the street to play with us, a car innocently hit it, and then not so innocently sped away. My friend and I were devastated. We ran to the puppy that lay yelping and trembling in a puddle of its blood like a crumpled pinata. "Dad! Dad," my friend yelled. My friend's dad was an alcoholic who stayed home drinking while his wife worked. Although a nice man, one who spoke kindly to his son and wife and who kept the yard and house clean, he always wobbled and slurred and smelled like beer. Today was no exception and he put his arm around his son who wept into his father's stomach. "Call the vet," my friend cried. " Help him, dad."
My friend's father kissed him on the top of the head and went back into his house. My friend knelt down and tried to comfort the puppy that was whining and spasming. He told the puppy to wait and promised help. When the automatic grage door opened, my friend's father exited with a beer in one hand and a hammer in the other. I was confused and watching in a stupor but my friend knew with a defiant instinct what was happening. "No!" He stood and yelled at his father. The drunken man took a swig of his beer and continued to walk towards us. My friend stomped his feet and railed against his father promising to be good if he saved the puppy and promising to hate him if he didn't. The father winced and he said, "Turn away, boys." I closed my eyes and the puppy stopped crying but my friend's cries have never stopped in my memory. Sometimes, when people around me are suffering, I remember that day.
I help homeless people for a living. People who have addictions, or who are emotionally broken, and who self sabotage. People who are, like all of us sometimes are, down on their knees. I don't feel empowered now that I'm grown. I still mostly feel like an observer who can only choose what I will say and do. I know I can't stop a man with a proverbial hammer, or a drink. I try to help people if they will let me.
For most people it takes a crisis; a proverbial blow to the head, to shake them up and make a decision to change. It's hard to get out of their mind and into their heart until they are devastated by the choices they've made or the events around them. All of us will hit rock bottom, in our own way, at sometime in our lives. When we are down it is important to remember there are only two types of people; those who will help us to live and those who will help us to die. When others are down it is important for us to decide which type of friend we will be. Imperfectly, I try to keep this in mind when I speak and when I act and try to never speed away when I realize I've made a mistake.
I do not know if my friend's father did the right thing that day. I cannot judge him without walking in his shoes. Perhaps it was kindness; an inconvenient duty. I know that Christ used a hammer and so do we all. Hammers know exactly what they should do while us mortals struggle daily with our choices. Which type of person will you choose to be?