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People often refer to the past as “the good ol’ days”—times when things moved slower, technology had less necessity in our lives, and neighbors called upon one another in times of need.
What has happened to that? Why is it in this fast-paced, technology-driven, I-don’t-have-to-acknowledge-you-because-something-electronic-is-flashing-in-my-hands era have we lost sight of one of the most basic human values?
Why is it we shut ourselves off from others instead of reaching out and connecting? Why as a society are we afraid to speak to one another? Has e-mail, text-messaging and note-leaving somehow replaced the basics of humanity?
The results of such have likely never so vividly played out as with two horrible cases that caught media attention recently.
The first centers on a 93-year-old veteran. Marvin Schur of Michigan was found dead in his home after apparently freezing to death—a death officials say was slow and painful.
According to news reports, the widower had no nearby relatives. When he fell behind on his electric bill—which some have attributed to a slipping mind and not an inability to pay—utility officials installed a device on his home that limited his electricity usage.
The device, which functions like a fuse, shuts off power if usage reaches a certain level. It has to be reset for electrical use to resume.
So why didn’t World War II veteran reset the device when it shut off his power? He apparently didn’t know how and maybe had no clue the device had even been installed. According to news accounts, the utility company never spoke directly with Schur—not by phone or in person.
When an official went to Schur’s property to install the device, no one stopped to tell him what was going on or how to use it. A note was left on his door, but neighbors say when the weather is cold, Schur rarely went outside.
When neighbors eventually went inside Schur’s home to check on him, they discovered his windows were frosted over and icicles hung from his faucet. Schur was dead on his bedroom floor wearing four layers of clothing and a winter jacket.
What a horrible way for one of America’s war heroes to die. His life may have been saved if one person would have actually chosen to stop and talk to him. What’s the value of speed and efficiency when it’s weighed against a human life?
If that story isn’t enough to make you step back and question society’s values, how about this one?
In Detroit, a reporter for The Detroit News was contacted after some men found a body in ice at the bottom of an elevator shaft of an abandoned building.
Why didn’t the men call the police instead of the reporter? They were trespassing and didn’t want to get in trouble. As a matter of fact, according to Charlie LeDuff who broke the story (and ultimately summoned help for the frozen, dead victim) the men were playing hockey on water that had frozen in the building’s basement and even after seeing him, they kept playing their hockey game.
The hockey players weren’t the only ones to ignore the body. A few homeless men who had taken shelter in the building indicated they knew he was there.
LeDuff asked one if he knew who the dead person was. The shoes and the bottom of his pants were the only things visible from the block of ice.
“I don’t recognize him from his shoes,” the man responded.
When asked if he called the police, the man told LeDuff, “No, I figured someone else did…There’s lots of people coming through here with cameras and cell phones. I don’t got no phone. I don’t got no quarter. Things is tight around here.”
Another man told LeDuff the body had been down there for at least a month. When asked if he called police, the man said, “No, I thought it was a dummy myself.”
LeDuff wasn’t convinced.
Even emergency officials weren’t in a hurry to help. LeDuff called 911 several times and it took nearly a full day before someone finally responded.
The man in ice remained encased while life went on around him. What a sickening thing that says about the world.
What about you? Have you thought about your neighbors lately? In your busy life, do you have a few seconds to stop by and say hello, or check in if you haven’t seen someone for a while?
What if you were on a bedroom floor freezing to death? Wouldn’t you want someone to stop by and see if you were OK? Taking care of one another is the least we can do, and doing so would say a whole lot about the integrity that’s left in mankind, if there is any left at all.