It’s about time someone held up a nice sign in public. While the CSU campus has been preoccupied with mean visitors from the Midwest, the mid-Eastern Seaboard has been grappling with a horrific spree of seemingly random killings for the last two weeks. The 10 sniper attacks that have left eight people dead, the most recent death last Friday, has left the Washington D.C. area reluctant to carry on the daily routines that so often demand our time.
School dances and homecoming games have been cancelled. Kindergarten students are not taking field trips to pumpkin patches. Weddings are being moved indoors. People are not running to Rite-Aid to pick up prescriptions. And people are terrified to pump gas. In the short distance it takes to exit or enter a building, ten people have been felled by single shots from a high-powered rifle, left sprawling on the ground with wounds the size of coffee cups. The reticence is understandable.
And yet, even in a world like this, where our very ability to run to the grocery store for a few things is challenged, we are reminded that what is good about humanity so often triumphs. We are reminded that light does not easily give sway to darkness.
In two gas stations around the Washington Beltway this weekend, men and women in bowling alley-esque metallic-red jackets and side-coked red berets took a seemingly simple, yet markedly poignant stand. Holding signs that said, “Don’t pass, we’ll pump your gas,” members of the Guardian Angels, a national group of civilians interested in aiding the police in matters of public order, manned the gas stations all weekend, and pumped gas for patrons too scared to stand outside their vehicles.
The chances are small, of course, that any one person would be the victim of the sniper’s bullet. But as long as the chance exists, so does the fear. And fear is the greatest tool of anyone interested in disrupting the rhythm of established order.
What is remarkable about the actions of the Guardian Angels is that they seemingly so effortlessly take up the call of duty, holding up a mirror to our own shortcomings. Where most would stay in their cars, the Guardian Angels don excruciatingly visible red coats, almost flaunting their presence in front of possible danger. And with each nozzle they held this weekend so that someone else wouldn’t have to, they give a gracious and polite, “screw you” to evil.
I am not saying that the people who are frightened to pump their gas are cowards. My parents live 20 miles from where a young boy was hit by the sniper last week. Of course, I want my mom to fill-up at a station manned by someone in a red coat.
But we should take a lesson from them at the same time. The Guardian Angels, and people like them who always rise up when a crisis arises, should not serve as our saviors. They should serve as our role-models. We are far too preoccupied with our own selves to recognize how desperately needed unselfish motivation is. We must demand from our own actions the daily walk of self-sacrifice. We must put on our own version of ridiculous red coats, wherever we live, whatever we do.
Because even in a fallen world, the righteous persist. In a world where men and women pump gas so that someone else doesn’t have to, we can no longer robe ourselves in the mediocrity of shallow self-preservation. In a world like this we no longer have any excuse.