Saturday, March 03, 2007

Uninformed PRESUMPTIONS

Pre-sume /verb/ suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability
[The New Oxford American Dictionary]

He went forward on the presumption that He had the necessary understanding of the situation to equip himself for success. The elderly gentleman (assumed to be the next-door neighbor) told him that after the locked door was overcome with the assistance of the ax offered by the gentleman for that task, He would encounter some resistance due to the rug that the occupant of the house customarily kept rolled up against the door as a deterrent to cold draught. And, indeed, after smashing the lock mechanism with said ax, He did, in fact, realize a firm, but yielding, resistance quite natural to a heavy rug. Hence, after persuading the rug to allow the opening of the door for a distance barely sufficient for his body to crawl through, he flattened himself to the floor and projected himself into the smoke-filled room and made his first attempt to evaluate the situation.

Having never before confronted a burning building, He was encouraged by the realization that the long ago learned (from sources not remembered) theory that there would be a space at floor level where the smoke would be eight or ten inches above the floor itself. And surely this was the reality that He encountered as into that narrow space He crawled and inched toward the room where He could clearly see the flames hungrily consuming every element and surface. This was the room that the neighbor had told him that the three children were normally in. Three small children who had been left by their mother who had gone for a quick visit to the store that was but around the corner. Three small children whose voices had been heard screaming for help just a short while before he had appeared upon the scene.

And now He was trying, through the acrid, oxygen-starved haze of that narrow corridor at floor level, to locate the children. Back out of the room He came to recharge his lungs with air. Choking, spitting, and coughing out disgusting remnants of that life-denying gas, He steeled himself for another entry. Again, He pushed past the rug-impaired opening and extended himself still further into the kitchen and toward what seemed to be the now fully consumed dining area of this small tinderbox of a dwelling. No luck… nothing… not a single child in sight and the heated chemical residue of all that the flames were converting into toxic gases scalded his eyes and his throat.

Back out, across the tiny deck that served as the back porch and into the small yard that was itself becoming engulfed in the stench of the fog of the fire. This time the neighbor was there with water (from some source that was not noticed) and offered to cool and wash his face. The water was gratefully accepted and used to wet his handkerchief, which He placed over his now-parched mouth and nose for his last foray into the hellhole of that inferno. He could only think of three small children who had not been heard from nor seen for what was beginning to seem like forever. Cursing the bulk of that damned rug for its bulky resistance, he pushed yet again into now known territory and this time beyond until his lungs demanded retreat. Failure! With the mucous of a pulmonary system ridding itself of intruding threats pouring from his mouth, his nose, and even his eyes, he heard the arrival of the fire fighters.

To the first Firefighter to come into the back yard (where he and the now still and silent ancient neighbor stood) he yelled the information that he presumed to be a statement of all pertinent facts. The Firefighter gave him a look that was a puzzlement to him though it lasted but a fraction of a second. Then, to his astonishment, this huge (or so he seemed clothed, as he was, in all of his fire-fighting equipment) fellow simply took a seat on that self-same tiny porch. The Man just sat there… “How absurd” He thought. He had just moments before used that surface as a launch area for entry into the chamber of unspeakable horror. “How can he be simply taking a seat and not doing anything?” He thought and wanted to scream.

Then… calmly… with measured deliberation… that Fireman leaned back, reached behind himself, around the still-open door, and, obviously (from the grimace of effort registered on his face) grasped that rug that had thrice been such an impediment to the would-be rescuer, and pulled forth not a rug… oh no… a small boy! Cradling the inert form in his arms and hurrying toward the waiting medical equipment at the front of the blazing structure, the professional Angel of Mercy looked at the pair of dumbstruck observers and said “The children always go to the nearest door… and that’s where we usually find them.”

He had gone past that child three times. He had presumed the bulky weight to be what he had been told to expect there. He had presumed that He had all of the information necessary to do his best for the best outcome. He was ignorant of unknown probabilities. It is now thirty-seven years later and He still feels… really senses the actual awareness of the soft, ungiving weight of that little boy’s body as he pushed against it. He had cursed it for its impediment to his efforts to reach the children. Every time He hears or sees a fire truck on its way to affect a rescue He instantly relives that moment. That boy would be somewhere around forty five years old now… but he is not. He never had a chance to be. And I… that’s right, I… will never stop regretting the presumptions that I made that day.

If there were no other reason for my efforts to share my perspectives… my ‘lessons learned’… my little insights into this business of life... the provision of an expanded set of possibilities for your consideration would be reason enough. I will do everything that I can to equip you with a wider understanding; a broader scope of outlook; an awareness of a more useful set of possibilities for your use in your entering into whatever areas of unknowns that present themselves to you. I can never accept the possibility that my reticence could leave you vulnerable to the pain, the unhappiness, the disappointment of missing the potential blessing of any experience… because your presumptions were left minus an expanded scope of possibilities that I could have offered you.

When I pledge myself to you as “Your Friend and Servant” (as I so frequently do) there is always, in my soul, an awareness of the weight of some ‘rug’ against which you may be pushing in your life. And I must help you see the life potentials that could be there if only you know where to reach… what to grasp… how to react.

To that end, I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and willing Servant,

John-Michael
(originally penned 29July2005)



(IMAGEs: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

4 comments:

Sharon said...

This story always makes me cry.

John-Michael said...

Me too.

Denise said...

Gosh what a weighty realisation to have carried around..... filled my eyes with tears for the boy but thought that many of us would have acted exactly the same way as you did and so i assume by now you have forgiven yourself for your human frailties , which of course we all have in different forms.

have a great day Dxx

John-Michael said...

You are, of course, absolutely right. I lighten the weight by making the experience available to you... in the hope that it is of some merit to your personal life-journey. As to forgiveness... I did all that I was capable of doing within the frame of my knowledge and abilities... none of can (in fairness) ever demand more than that of ourselves.

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