“ …the neighbors allegedly heard screaming and shattering sounds.”
After sipping his coffee Peter began “I remember one particular evening when I was living there.”
“I remember how I saw Susan covering one side of her face. She was in tears, her voice was shaky. I asked her if she was OK and she said that she had a fight with her husband. I asked her if she wanted me to call the cops the next time or do something, but she replied that she did not. I remembered how guilt ridden I felt. Despite her false assurance I knew that something was wrong. I could not shake the feeling, it pervaded me for days. I was haunted by the image of her covering her left side. But after feeling this way for several days I saw her again in the hallway. I asked her again how she was doing and she replied that she was doing great. She wasn’t even covering her face anymore she just smiled and hurriedly went her way. That joyful face also haunted me because I knew that there was something still wrong. But like the time before I did nothing about it. I just went about my business rationalizing that things were better and that I was too sensitive.”
The man replied, “So you did at one point try to help her out. What held you back?
Peter replied “Like I said before I felt that things would just work out alright. Who was I to intrude upon her relationship with her husband? I have seen many quarrels in my lifetime and they usually worked out in the end.”
The man asked, “Despite your explanation you still seem racked by guilt. What is causing that, after all you did say that you thought that everything would work out like it always did in your previous experiences?”
Peter replied, “I feel torn by guilt because this case was different. I lived under her for 3 years. I heard those fights, I saw her bruises and yet did nothing about it.” I continued, “This is doubly worse since as a Christian I am supposed to care more for others then myself like you said before.”
“Why don’t you try just helping people out when you can?” the man interjected.
“It isn’t that simple.” Peter responded
“Yes it is. Doing good is very simple.” The man said.
“Maybe for you, but not for me.”
“Why is it easier for me then?”
“It just is.” Peter answered angrily.
The man continued, “Based on your answer you are telling me that since I am not a Christian it is easier for me to do good? You see the folly in that reasoning. It’s ironic that someone who professes to believe in Christianity which is predicated on helping others can’t find it within themselves, when reason demands so to help others. While people like me who don’t believe in Christianity find it easier to do so.”
“Let me share something with you. That is the main reason why I don’t claim to be a Christian because all of your religious dogmas get in the way of you doing good things. If you lived more simply you would have helped your neighbor and maybe today she would have still been alive.”
Peter half embarrassed replied, “That is not fair?” Who are you to say that things would have turned out differently if I acted? Maybe she still would have been killed at another time.”
The man calmly replied, “Maybe so but at the least you wouldn’t feel guilty as you do now.”
“I feel guilty because I could have possibly saved this woman’s life. Now that she is dead it is too late. The only assurance that I have is my good intention, but good intentions are never enough if they don’t inspire action. I didn’t fail as a Christian I failed as a human being.”
After saying this and sinking his head down Peter quickly picked himself up and in a determined tone asked, “Have you ever regretted something in your life?
“Of course I have.” The man answered, “A man who has lived as many years as I, has made many mistakes.”
“Can you tell me one that haunts you to this very day?”