Law, kindness and ethics share same room | Nandell Palmer
By NANDELL PALMER
Federal Way Mirror Write A Blessing
May 18, 2012 · Updated 5:01 PM
Last week when I learned of the late Mirror columnist Walter Backstrom’s passing, I was speechless, to say the least. How could that be, I questioned myself over and over.
My preoccupation with that ordeal ties in nicely with the scores of questions I have been asking myself over the past two months. One being: When do laws and ethics take dominion over common sense and kindness?
Every profession has a built-in proviso regarding law and ethics. The police officer has the power to give a ticket for jaywalking or issue a warning. The same doctor that pledged the Hippocratic Oath at graduation will someday act counter to those words.
Magistrates, too, have certain allegiances that follow the canons of the court, but should there be a need for kindness, some will slant their rulings for charity’s sake. So, in a nutshell, are all of us hypocrites at one time or another, saying one thing now and doing the opposite later?
Far from advocating breaking our statutes, I have found that in certain situations, benevolence and common sense have the power to wipe our slates clean of laws and reasons.
I watched in consternation once as fruit packers at a neighborhood supermarket dumped boxes of bananas because company policies forbade them to sell blemished fruits.
Suppose a homeless and famished Backstrom had needed two of those bananas before they were dumped. Would they be given to him? Prior to becoming homeless, did Backstrom make a few telephone calls to a friend or two in a last-ditch effort to stave off eviction or foreclosure?
As I get older, I am becoming far less judgmental, learning to talk less and listen/observe more.
Statements like “I will never do that” are no longer part of my vocabulary because I just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Will that distinguished professor ever pardon herself for giving up her virginity at 15 for a burger and a milkshake that Friday evening in 1972 after not eating for three days?
How is the couple that once owned 22 luxury investment homes in the South feel now when they had to move into a one-room place two years ago, later dissolving their marriage?
Catch me five years ago and I would wax heartily like Descartes, Hobbes, Locke and Socrates, explaining why a situation is this way or that. Time, I’ve found, is the greatest teacher.
Until you have walked in somebody’s shoes, quite honestly, there’s no way you can judge that person. Why do we dodge away from the unkempt boys when we refuse to offer them a care package of toothpaste, soap and washcloth?
It’s not intentional when a drowning man is trying to pull you under water as you struggle to save him. The man is simply seeking a route of escape. At that time he will grab after a floating straw. Anything will do. The single mother who tenders a check, hoping that it wouldn’t be cashed until she’s paid the next day, should not be judged harshly.
Employing law and ethics, she knows that it’s wrong. But survival skills kick in. Paying the overdraft fees, she reckons, is much better than paying a $500 repossession fee for her only means of transportation.
A recent television finding stated that men over 50 like Backstrom die at an alarming rate than women when faced with unemployment, divorce and depression. Not able to afford even basic food or medication, these men consider themselves an utter failure, and have simply lost the will to live.
We cannot afford to lose hope. One beautiful acronym for HOPE is: Helping Other People Everyday. We must do our part, one person at a time.
While we should strive to maintain a stellar reputation, we must also be prepared to have it besmirched at times for the greater good.
There’s no way I would drive past my neighbor’s wife, saddled with shopping bags, her walking home in pouring rain, if I can assist her with a ride. Who cares what others might think seeing a “strange” woman in my car? People who hid Jews during the Holocaust risked their reputation. Harriet Tubman’s white sympathizers risked theirs, too, to advance the Underground Railroad movement.
In the spirit of Walter Backstrom, consider that some people are hurting and desperately need your help. Now! Save judgment for later.Contact Federal Way Mirror Write A Blessing Nandell Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.