I wrote the following piece a while ago in a moment of fury and decided not to post it. Now I’ve read it, I’m fuming all over again. So here’s it is…
The situation involved an already hot and humid Sydney summer morning, a stressed man and a willful puppy. I’d just crossed a busy road on the way to work when the aforementioned puppy escaped its lead and bolted. Too overwhelmed to give chase, the man previously attached to the puppy suffered a medical episode and collapsed on the sidewalk.
Strangers appeared everywhere to help and comfort him as he writhed in pain and gasped for breath. A man ran down the road and retrieved the escaped puppy. Another called an ambulance.
I sat with him and held his hand as we waited for the ambulance. More people came and stayed to make sure he was OK. Then, a woman arrived and pushed her way into the gathered crowd. She knelt beside him and said: “Now. Let’s pray to God for help.”
To some of you, this may seem a harmless response to a person in distress, but my first thought was one of shock and affront followed by an intense urge to shout at her and say: HOW DARE YOU ASSUME THIS MAN BELIEVES IN GOD!
I have to admit to feeling so angry, I wanted to tell her to sod off. To assume a stranger follows a particular brand of belief is, to me, a massive act of arrogance. To impose one’s ideology on someone in this way in a moment of need is to me, both deeply inappropriate and offensive.
Look, I know she had good intentions, but her gesture came across as massively rude. All I saw that morning was an opportunistic bully attempting to cajole a stranger who could barely speak into muttering utterances to her dogmatic version of the unknown. This woman was applying the heat of religious indoctrination when all that man needed, until medical help arrived, was warmth and compassion.
Aware this was neither the time nor the place for an argument over matters of theology, I held my tongue. Thankfully, as this happened near a fire station, a fire engine arrived and began to minister practical help to this distressed soul and rescue him from that fevered evangelist.
On that steamy Sydney footpath, there were two fires that needed extinguishing that morning – the flames of that woman’s righteousness and my own smoldering indignation. So. Thank God for the fire service.