COMMENTARY: Not Everyone in Need Has a Brick

A successful man known for his philanthropy was driving his new car through a poor part of town. He’d driven the route hundreds of times before on his way home.

A young boy tried to flag him down. The man was in a hurry and didn’t want to get involved, so he pretended he didn’t see him. The traffic signal turned red, though. As he slowed for it, he heard a loud thud. The boy had thrown a brick at his car!

The man burst out of the car and grabbed the boy. “You juvenile delinquent!” he screamed. “You’ll pay for this or go to jail!”

“I’m sorry, mister,” the boy cried. “My mom’s lying on the floor in our apartment. I think she’s dying! Our phone’s been cut off and I’ve been trying to get someone to stop. I didn’t know what else to do! Take me to jail, but call a doctor for my mom first.”

The man was filled with shame. “I’m a doctor,” he said. “Where is she?” The grateful boy took him to his apartment. The man administered CPR and called an ambulance.

“Will she live?” the boy sobbed.

“Yes, son, she will,” the doctor said.

“Then it’s worth going to jail. I’m so sorry I hit your new car. You can take me in now.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” the doctor said. “It was my fault you had to throw a brick to get my attention.”

The doctor made sure the boy was taken care of, and as he drove home he resolved not to fix the dent. He would keep it as a reminder that not everyone in need has a brick to throw.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 11

  1. This is supposed to be an American city, yes? And this boy, he has no neighbors *in an entire apartment building* to ask for help? There is no one on any of the streets nearby with a cell phone to call 911? His *only* option is to throw a brick at someone’s car?

    If it really happened, the kid is gonzo, the mom’s probably a crack addict, and the rich man has nothing to be ashamed of. If it’s not, it’s inane. I recommend City Journal for rational fact-based analyses of city poverty (and the novel IMANAI ALL MINE and the memoir LIFE AT THE BOTTOM for a more emotional examination of the problem).

    Do right. Be honorable, but please: use your brain in the process.

  2. True or not, It is a great way to understand how we should help others and that not everything appears as it really is around us.

  3. Hey touch OT but I just felt similar to another commentor, that this story is a bit off.

    Michael, you have used stores in the past that the sensually said, “a wrong or two wrongs do not make it right”. As I read the story that comes to mind.
    This is a story where the end justifies the means, about which you have declared wrong in the past. So I wonder at making this an example to be turned into “remember that everybody doesn’t have what we have” story.
    There were other ways that this story might have played out or been handled. But does doing wrong in order to gain what you feel you need really make it right?

  4. Even personal editing did not keep all the mistakes out. I apologize.
    I want to start out hey, it was supposed to be A.
    That wasn’t stores, it was to be stories.
    And “sensually”? I don’t think so

  5. I don’t see this story as a story about two wrongs making a right. I see this as a story about a son trying to save his mother. It is written for those of us who could help others but choose not to do so. Perhaps the boy had other ways of solving the problem and perhaps he did not. We can’t tell from the information. What is clear is that he did not see any other option. The doctor’s willingness to help should be a reminder to all of us that we have a responsibility to others with whom we share the planet.

  6. Carbonel, Carbonel…what a cop out! It says nowhere where the parable takes place. It says nothing about the other being a drug addict. You can’t face up to the parable as written so you cop out by inventing facts not in the parable so as to avoid having to face the issue as defined! And, by the way, since when are people addicted to drugs not quite people? Does “don’t damage someone else’s car” take precedence over “honor thy mother and thy father?” And what weight is given to, “Love thy neighbor as thy self?” And Scrooge, eh, excuse me, Carbonel, do you hold a “young boy” to the same ethical standard as a grown up? The purpose of the parable is to set conflicting normative positions against each other. I don’t know what black and white world you live in but it happens all the time in this world.

  7. Mea culpa, you see why I don’t get invited to many party’s. But I do feel strongly about these issues. The world is getting too crowded and too interconnected for the old “primum non nocere” – non-malefisance to suffice as a standard anymore. We must owe a positive duty if our world of contested strangers is to survive. Love the sinner. Hate the sin. I come from Socratic and legal background where points are made directly and strongly and offense is not easily taken. That’s not an excuse just a reason. In many places now a days skins are worn much thinner. That tendency toward euphemism often gets in the way of thorough communication. Peace.

  8. Perhaps Carbonel has forgotten what it might feel like to be a frightened little boy scared for his mom. As a parent educator, I see many people who have lost that connection to their vulnerable younger selves. It may be difficult with our ‘adult’ brains to not understand why children don’t do what we would do in similar situations.
    What I thought on reading this is: this child dealt with a crisis in an amazingly effective way; and given those actions, will grow up to be more resiliant than others who do nothing.

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