The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
It was only two weeks ago that I sat in a hospital waiting room. Agonizing minutes felt like hours as I killed time until I could hear how surgery had gone. Once he was out, I could tell something was off because I was given the run-around by the desk clerk when I began asking questions, while the nurse and the doctor seeing my husband (not the surgeon) refused to speak directly to me. It turns out that doctor (again, not the wonderful surgeon we love, who had to remove his leg below the knee a few minutes before), but the doctor who was with him in recovery was blocking the administration of pain medication (post-surgery) until my husband agreed to this doctor’s desired course of treatment for another one of his conditions.
This story should fill you with horror and outrage. The doctor held a necessity hostage until he got his own way. In the adult world we call this malpractice. In the toddler world (that I live in thanks to my twin boys) we call this a temper tantrum. In all worlds, it is derelict and unacceptable behavior.
Why? Aside from the obvious behavioral reasons, it is so because, when we move beyond the realm of toddlers, this kind of intentional abuse of power causes people to get hurt. Real people. Like my husband. Like so many others that are the collateral damage of irresponsible, injudicious decisions of those in a position meant to serve others.
Make no mistake, not only should those in the ultimate seats of power be held responsible, but also those in a position to do something who refuse – whether out of cowardice, ineptitude, or disregard, we do not know. The desk clerk who knowingly lied to my face and the nurse who knowingly covered the wrongful actions of that doctor are nearly as liable in my eyes.
And when people get hurt – it becomes not just a human issue, but a baseline faith issue. We must do better. We have to do better. It is our job – for any who would presume to say we follow Christ – to ensure that everyone has access to necessities: food, water, healthcare, education, safety, full lives (all things for which Jesus intentionally fought during his ministry). It is also our job to make sure that those we choose to lead us do the same.
There are far too many times in our world when we stand by and do nothing. As this new year begins and many of us watch authoritative maneuvers go unchecked all around us, let us all join the path of the one who came not to be served but to serve. Speak up. Stand up. Reach out and lend a hand. Do everything in your power, whatever it may be, to make sure that no one else gets hurt.