Who’s to blame?

In the face of tragedy, we have a deep-seated need to find meaning.  The recent trauma in Arizona is no different.  We are left wondering how something like this could happen.  It was so senseless!  As we work through the pain, we ask… Where did we go wrong?  How could we not see this coming?  And the most important question . . . Who’s to blame!   As I read through different ideas and suggested theories, I was reminded of a story.

Years ago, I was stopped for speeding.  In order to avoid points on my license, I opted for the driving class.  Being young and impatient, I suffered through four hours of instruction on the dangers of speeding, the devastating effects of auto accidents, and rules of the road!!  It was painful, of course, since I had my opinions and basically knew everything!

Sitting there wondering how much longer I could take it the instructor began to share the following story.  Although I may get some of the details wrong, you will get the picture:

One afternoon, a mother arrives to pick up her 12 year old daughter from school.  She did not take the bus because this day was special.  It was the girl’s birthday and they were heading to her party.  It was raining lightly.  In order to save time, rather than waiting in the designated parking area, the mother parked across the street and waited for her daughter.  As the young girl came out of the school, she saw her mother and began running to meet her.  In her excitement, she did not see the teenage driver traveling down the road.  Though he was not speeding, he did not see her run into the street until it was too late.  The girl was hit and killed.

After sharing the story, our instructor explained that this case went to court.  We were then asked to determine the court’s findings and, more specifically, who’s to blame ~ mother, driver, or child.

We proceeded to discuss our thoughts and our answers varied.  Some said the mother was 100% to blame while others completely blamed the driver.  Some placed 50/50 blame on both mother and driver.  Though most did not feel the child was 100% at fault, they did feel she had some responsibility, given her age.  Still others felt they shared responsibility equally, assigning 1/3 blame to each.  Going even a step further, blame could easily be placed on the school or staff present at the time of the accident.  We discussed our reasons and for each of us, it made perfect sense!

Afterward, the instructor began explaining how the court interpreted and eventually ruled in this case.  He proceeded to say that the idea of blame and responsibility is not something we split up, like a pie where each person accepts their own piece.  Alternatively, rather than assigning blame, each of us must take full and complete responsibility.  With that said, the court deemed the mother, driver, and child each to be 100% fully and completely responsible for this tragedy.

What an interesting way to look at it, I thought.  So often, in the midst of painful experiences, we tend to point fingers and assign blame.  What if, instead, we came together and all accepted responsibility, collectively?  What would the world be like?

I never forgot that story.  It appears my speeding ticket made a bigger impact on me than I ever thought it would at the time.  It changed the way I see things today.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the Arizona tragedy.  My hope is that in our pain and confusion, we find peace as we search for meaning.


Would love your thoughts, please comment

Ulrike says:

Thank you for sharing this Britta. It reminds me of the time I took this class and the instructor told the same story. I remember my surprise over the outcome of the case then; but thinking about it I agree that we all must take full responsibility for our part in whatever we do. I know it’s easier said then done because it is easier to put the blame on others or we may have to take a good look at ourselves and we may not like what we see.