I came across a car accident last night on Forrest Rd, St Marys, between two distinct ethnic groups of people – being Samoan and Asian. I felt compelled to pull over and make sure every thing was Ok.
I pulled over, walked up and introduced myself and said, “Hi guys, my name is Craig, I’m a chaplain. I want to make sure that every one is ok!” I said this first to the biggest guy there and then went to the other car where the occupants were sitting there in shock and asked the same.
I then had them move the cars from the intersection and park on the side of the road– lucky it wasn’t that busy – though because of the rain and dark – the potential for a further accident was high… I stayed with them for a while, it was wet and cold and through my suggestion the police were called.
I then said to the big guy (who was the man who rang the police) I might get going then, you all seem to have it under control…your not going to start a fight with the others (even though they had caused the accident and were in the wrong) He laughed at me and slapped me on the shoulder – No dude..its cool….I was really upset at the time and was shouting at them from shock….all good now….thanks for stopping and helping. I then approached the second group – asking to make sure they were ok, and suggested they stayed in the car because of the rain until the police came. I also said to them that the other guy had said to me he wasn’t going to punch them up – with this a look of deep relief came over the man and women in the car.
On the way home, I debriefed with my wife Joanne and worked out a few thoughts about what happened.
- By introducing myself and saying I wanted to make sure every one was ok, in a calm steady voice…become the initial important step of defusing the incident from escalating.
- Even though my initial reasons for asking them to move their cars were pragmatic, such as avoiding the possibility of someone else running into them. Not only did it cause both drivers and occupants to move into a different physical safer location; it also had the effect of creating a different mental space for them all – which again helped them to think about what needed to be done.
- While I could have made the phone call to the police, reporting the accident myself – I asked the drivers if they had contacted them – to which they said no and one driver pulled his phone out and rang them. This had the add on effect of empowering the drivers and the occupants to be proactive….it also aided in creating a deeper mindset between the two groups of mutual care as he asked the other group if they needed a ambulance through the prompting of the police.
- Again I made sure both parties were ok and asked the large Samoan man (who made the phone call) if he was going to punch their lights out… he laughed at me, slapped me on the shoulder and said “No man, its cool. I was angry at first..and was shouting at them – thanks for stopping and helping out” and he slapped me on the shoulder. I then told the other party what he said and they looked extremely relieved.
- I then said goodbye and left them there… suggesting they sat in their cars out of the rain. I believe I had done all I could at the time and the greater priority was to Joanne my wife who was sitting in the car (praying for us all)
- I believe I was effective last night in helping them out because I empowered them to act and to accept what had happened and to do what needed to be done. I empowered them to move their cars, to make the phone calls, to accept their situation and I did it in a way that continually kept the focus of me and on them.
There are times in life when we have to stop and get involved. Stopping was a little inconvenient for us both. We had gone out for dinner and then dropped around to say hi to Joanne’s brother. And we were on our way home, driving in a nice warm car, looking forward to getting home and sitting in front of the heater. It would have been easy to just pass them by….yet there are times when we are have to decide not to take the easy way and to get involved.