Today I held the hand of a man who’d been shot.
We were leaving for an office lunch when we noticed a young black man lying on his back in the lobby of our small two-story office building. His right leg was propped up on a chair and against the wall. A man and a woman, evidently from one of the downstairs offices, seemed to be attending to him somehow. I just figured he’d been standing on the chair and fell. But a co-worker asked what had happened, and he answered that he’d been shot.
The other folks brought him some water and a man was examining the wound after having called 911. Evidently the shot had gone clean through his thigh but missed major blood vessels. He was in a lot of pain but conscious and seemed like he might have been in shock. He indicated that he and a friend had been in a car nearby leaving an apartment and been shot after being mistaken for members of a rival gang.
I kept talking to him, holding his hand and saying a brief prayer after it seemed like he was worried he might die. His phone rang; it was his friend in a great deal of difficulty. He talked to him for a bit until the paramedics arrived (which seemed to take a LOT longer than expected). They indicated that the other man’s situation might be life-threatening.
Then we talked to his wife; he spoke with her for a moment, then I gave her a few more details while they loaded him on a stretcher. I think I calmed her down a little, then got his mother’s number from the phone so she could call her.
The uniformed officers on scene really seemed not to care at all. When I later asked about the state of the two men, they blew me off and said they were fine. Later a detective came by to get my statement. There’s an investigation still underway, but I’m not rushing to any conclusions about who had done what and why.
The biggest lesson for me out of all of this is that there really are two kinds of people in the world: those just trying to make our way through it, trying to do what seems right (whether we succeed or not), and those who prefer to put themselves on high and look down on others.
I liked to think that most anyone would stop upon seeing that and try to help; the parable of the Good Samaritan has wound its way deeply into our culture. But I saw enough today – and not just from cops, for sure – to instill a great deal more cynicism in me. I probably didn’t do everything right today, but I’ll sleep tonight knowing that at least I did what I could.