So, having decided Ash Wednesday morning that I would intentionally look for opportunities to be kind or helpful through the Lenten season, I found various ways to do so, in small ways, through the day. Toward evening, I was confronted with a somewhat different scanario for action.

I had taken the Metro from the Baptist World Alliance headquarters in Falls Church, Va., headed for downtown Washington. Getting off the train at the Chinatown station, I merged onto the crowded escalator leading up to street level in a shopping area called the Gallery.

As the escalator neared the top, I saw people spreading out, trying to avoid two boys who were fighting. They appeared to be in their midteens, and neither was a skillfull fighter, but they were going at it hammer and tongs — and no one was doing anything about it. Some people walked on by, while others stood in a circle and watched. I was amazed. And apalled.

When the larger of the two boys managed to back the other into a corner and appeared to on the verge inflicting actual damage, I walked over, put myself between them, and suggested that they calm down.

They did.

I was bigger than either of them, and they didn’t know that I’m really just a mild-mannered professor with no fighting skills to speak of. So, they separated and moved away. For all I know, they may have finished the fight somewhere else, but I couldn’t imagine being party to just watching them slug it out without some effort at peacemaking.

Whether my intervention was a random act of kindness or a raving act of stupidity, I can’t say, but it felt right at the time — and, it reminded me of so many other ways in which we have a tendency to stand around and observe conflict or trouble or hunger or grief, but instead of getting involved, we just say “Tsk, tsk,” and move along. 

As we make our way through the penitent season of Lent, we might want to make apathy a subject of prayer.

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