In 1918 Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, saw Rueben Granger carrying Howard Loomis on his back. Loomis suffered from Polio and had been abandoned at Boys Town the year before. Thinking that carrying Loomis was hard work, Flanagan inquired of Granger who answered, “He ain’t heavy, Father…he’s m’ brother.”
Living in a civilized society requires us – or at least should cause us – to ask some profound and fundamental questions. Such as: What obligations do I have to my neighbors? What level of generosity is expected of me?
Only after considering such concepts can we progress to the next step in thinking about things like: Should I be willing to face sacrifices for the welfare of my fellow man? And, if so, how far will I go for my brothers and sisters?
It’s my contention that we are called to charity. And true charity is personal, and private.
We’re called to feed the poor; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the imprisoned; and bury the dead. It’s not the government’s job to do those things. It’s ours.
Taking it to the next logical step, we must then ask ourselves, should I ever be willing to risk my life for another?
Two recent tragedies no doubt challenge my assertion.
First is fallen Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley. If ever there was a fine example of one who deliberately decided to put himself in danger, for the sake of his fellow man, Officer Talley is it. Not only did Eric change careers so that he could make more of a difference in the world, but by all accounts, he knew what was at stake that fateful day in March when, having heard the situation on his radio, he charged into King Soopers.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s homily at Officer Eric Talley’s funeral, at the cathedral in Denver, captured Eric’s life well in stating, “Jesus has told us greater love than this no man has than to lay down his life [for another].” Eric’s father, Homer Talley, recounts a conversation he had with his son, in which Eric says that he does not know if, in the event of an active shooting, he will be able to follow department policy, and stand by, awaiting backup, while a gunman remains at large. Stand by, he did not.
Eric Talley was his brother’s keeper.
Next we go to Arvada, and review the tragedy that unfolded on June 21. After Ronald Troyke ambushed and killed Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley, Good Samaritan Johnny Hurley risked his life and took out the cop killer. What followed next is truly a heartbreaking accident. After Hurley successfully saves the day, for some reason, he proceeds to pick up the killer’s gun. Just then another Arvada police officer arrives and sees Hurley holding the weapon, and (presumably concluding that Hurley is the cop assassin) shoots and kills the Good Samaritan.
An incredibly regrettable situation, without a doubt.
Some will surely say that it’s not our place to intervene. That we should leave such business to the government. They’ll claim that Officer Talley’s death at King Soopers proves that it’s too dangerous for ordinary citizens to play a role in defending their neighbors. That if a cop gets killed so easily, how could a civilian possibly help?
And without a doubt, others will claim that Hurley’s death, due to being mistaken for the perpetrator, proves that it’s far too dangerous for ordinary citizens to get involved. They’ll suggest that Johnny Hurley’s death is what we should expect when civilians attempt to defend those around them.
To me, those events prove just the opposite. If we abolished the military every time that a hero was killed by friendly fire, we wouldn’t have a department of defense. Accidents happen.
Lastly, some will go so far as to say that they don’t want others to get involved, even if they themselves were under fire. I contend that it’s easy to spout such abstract concepts from the comfort of one’s couch.
Am I suggesting that we all must learn to operate and carry a weapon? Not even close.
Some of us choose to feed the poor. Others adopt orphans. And, fortunately, there are others who are willing to risk their lives to help increase the chances that we’ll be able to leave the grocery store without being killed along with them.
To me, Officer Talley and Johnny Hurley are true heroes.
We need more like them.
Charlie Danaher lives in Boulder.
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