"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the welfare of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A dear friend of mine brought that quote to my attention last week. As soon as I read it, I felt the hand of God on my back, once again giving me the push I need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Dr. King's statement isn't only an admonition against moral negligence, it's a sad commentary on what can be expected when one does in fact act.
Doing the right thing, requires making a judgement call against the actions of another, or lack thereof, something popular, American culture frowns upon.
Unless the perceived violation is obviously offensive, the whistle-blower is forever left wondering if his or her intrusion was indeed justified.
Almost ten years ago, my mother, an exceptionally intelligent and well educated woman, began exhibiting signs of dementia - memory loss, confusion, disorientation. She lost her ability to fluently articulate herself, maintain the family finances, buy groceries.
My father, her husband and soul-mate of fifty years, assumed the household chores. He also made it his mission to cover for her mistakes - to keep her condition hidden.
Incredibly social individuals, my parents were determined to live the retirement lifestyle they'd aspired to, in spite of Mother's illness. That lifestyle included the liberal consumption of alcohol.
I don't know if Mom was ever formally diagnosed with dementia, but she was prescribed a drug most commonly used to treat its symptoms.
I fully understand my parents' right and desire to live their golden years to their fullest, but there came a point at which I felt they were being reckless. Mother still self-medicated, had free access to the car, and the gas stove. Cocktail hour began at home, or on the road, at 4:30. It wasn't a stretch to believe that somebody needed to remain sober.
I wasn't the only one alarmed. Others shared their concerns with me. Mother herself complained bitterly about Dad's inability to moderate his alcohol consumption. Clearly, something needed to be said, but sadly I was the only one willing to speak up. Others opted to pray nothing bad happened, or worse, to wait for a crisis and then intervene.
While a firm believer in the power of prayer, I also believe that God gives us a voice and expects us to use it (something Mom's father used to say).
There were boundaries I never crossed with my Dad, and I worried he'd look upon what I had to say as an intrusion. Nobody wants to be told how to live, least of all an educated man in his seventies.
As anticipated, Dad perceived my show of concern as an attack, and launched a counter-attack, dividing the family.
I'll never know if my words or actions prevented a tragedy, or caused my parents to moderate their lifestyle. I would like to believe that some good came from the suffering that ensued.
My parents consider my intervention a betrayal they can't forgive. I am no longer welcome in their home. I love them, and pray they are safe and happy.
Morally, and intellectually, I know I did the right thing. Would I do it again? You bet! The faint-hearteds' refusal to intervene empowered my father to continue down a path of self-destruction with my mother in tow.
Still my heart aches for the loss. But it's a pain I can learn to live with.
To read more about this story, CLICK the following links: I'd Like To Report a Drowning . . . My Own, Accepting That It's Simply So, Resignation, Dancing In the Rain.