This I Believe

Ryan - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on June 9, 2006

The Good of Man

The other day while on call at my hospital, I took care of a 12 year old girl who was stabbed in the left chest, near her heart. She came to us shepherded by emergency medical technicians who, as they hurriedly wheeled her in, rattled off a brief history of the event followed by a slew of vitals.

The child appeared stable but as a trauma, needed to be fully evaluated. Thus, we stripped her of her clothes, listened to her chest, pressed on her belly, examined her pelvis, turned her on her side and evaluated her back. Luckily for her, she had no other injuries from this blade, just the one to her chest that could have killed her had it been a little deeper.

She was 12. Her attacker, also 12, was a girl in her class. One girl had bullied the other previously. There was an incident in which one had held the other down and made her eat either dirt. One had had enough and brought a steak knife to school. She tried to kill the other during a subsequent fight by thrusting the knife towards her 12 year old beating heart. She missed.

Now step back from the girl, slow things down, and take a look around the room. The child is crying. She wants her parents. She’s afraid of the IV we slide into her vein and the tetanus shot she’s about to receive. She has a small but gaping wound on her breast.

Now step back even further, outside of this room with this scared and naked child. Zoom out and take a bird’s eye view of this city where a girl was stabbed by her classmate. Big buildings, lots of people, traffic – it looks like most other cities and probably is.

I believe in the good of man. I want to believe most people don’t intentionally want to do others harm and, for the sake of my sanity, I have to believe a 12 year old girl did not actually want to kill another 12 year old girl. But maybe she did. Maybe she was so full of hate at having to eat dirt that she believed the right thing to do was kill. If this is truly what she thought, there is something gravely wrong with our society. How could a young girl have gotten this idea?

Violence has always been part of who we are. We ALL have the ability to be violent, to grab a knife and thrust – this is a trait we maintain because in some rare circumstances, the ability to be violent can be the difference between life and death. But we also ALL have the ability to be kind, to put the knife down or better yet, not bring it at all.

Why do some people choose violence over kindness? I don’t claim to know the answer to this but I take comfort in knowing that that a choice exists.