Tinsley: Decisions change the world

In 2010, two men made very different decisions. In Austin, Texas, Joseph Stack, embittered and angry at the IRS, set fire to his home, drove to Georgetown Airport, and took off in a single-engine Piper Cherokee. Minutes later, in a suicide crash reminiscent of 9/11, he slammed the plane into the IRS building in Austin. IRS employee Vernon Hunter died in the blaze. Hunter, 67, was a Vietnam veteran, usher at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, and dreamed of a different career after retirement. Hunter’s kids officially said they forgave Joe Stack for killing their father.

In Dallas, Andisso Andabo, 22, an Ethiopian immigrant working as a mechanic, left the Firestone store where he worked to make a delivery. As he was driving the LBJ Freeway in northwest Dallas, he saw a burning car go off the road and land on its side. Andabo immediately stopped his truck and rushed to the crime scene. As flames spread from the engine compartment, he saw a 39-year-old woman trapped inside, frozen in shock. He smashed the windscreen with his bare hands and tore it off. With the help of others who arrived at the scene, he pulled the woman out of the burning car just before it burst into flames. After that, Andabo returned to the Firestone store and got back to work.

Both men made decisions. Stack decided to vent his anger, bitterness and resentment in an act of violence that took his life and that of an innocent man. Andisso Andabo chose to risk his own safety to help a stranger in a moment of crisis. The different decisions of Stack and Andabo reflect different attitudes that each maintained privately. Each of us may not know what we would do in a crisis, but each of us makes choices every day to cultivate attitudes that guide our actions. Anger, resentment, and claims will eventually lead to violence and retaliation. Humility, compassion, and thoughtfulness will ultimately produce sacrificial acts of kindness.

Jesus defined the term “neighbor” in his famous story about the good Samaritan who risked his life to help a wounded victim who had been robbed and beaten. After stopping to tend to the man’s wounds, he carried him to the nearest inn for lodging. “The next day,” Jesus said, “he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and when I come back, I’ll reimburse you for any extra expenses you might have.'”

The attitudes we cultivate, the choices we make, and the actions they evoke make all the difference in the kind of world we live in. Choices that lead to violent reprisals create a world of enemies that feeds on fear and hatred. Choices that result in acts of kindness create a world of neighbors who help one another by demonstrating love, acceptance, and understanding.

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experiences from a faith perspective. His books are available atwww.tinsleycenter.com. E-mail[email protected].

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