A three year old boy playing with matches accidentally lets a match fall near the hem of his mother’s living room drapery. But she’s calling him from the kitchen to come eat his dinner.
On his way out, the boy glances at the drapery and sees a tiny smoldering hole, growing wider. Still, mother is calling him to come, “Right now!”
And he’s thinking, “She told me not to play with matches. She’ll be mad.”
So he walks out of the living room, closing the door behind him as if that will get rid of the problem. During supper, the boy’s father lays down his fork. “I smell something burning,” he says. Quickly, the boy’s parents push away from the table and follow the smell to the living room.
Flames are leaping from the drapery, burning out of control and endangering their home. The mother calls 911, but by the time the Fire Department arrives, half the house has burned up.
The three year old wasn’t thinking of the house, or the safety of his parents. Three year olds rarely think beyond themselves. He was trying to avoid the thing that would immediately affect him–his own discomfort if his mother became angry.
Lighting the match, leaving the room, and finally, not revealing that the living room is on fire–each of these acts has the consequence of expanding danger.
The little boy’s responsibility is lessened because he isn’t mature enough to understand. But I’m an adult. I understand that every act I perform has a consequence.
Or do I?
Do I recognize that a dangerous culture has been ignited in my country? Am I leaving the room and simply closing the door behind me to avoid discomfort? Why haven’t I called it to the attention others? Why haven’t I spoken out against it?
Where is my courage?
Am I just too busy with myself–or am I like the little boy, afraid someone might get mad at me?