We were ‘marginal offenders’.
That’s the official term for people who get caught by speed camera doing just a few miles per hour over the limit, often in an urban area. Not racing, pulling stunts like ‘the Fast and the Furious’, that will get you in court. Being marginally over the line gets you to a ‘Speed Awareness Course’ like this.
The facilitators were understanding and patient. They do this a lot, with people just like us. Hardly violent criminals, just a little careless, everyone with a perfectly plausible set of circumstances – late for a work appointment, someone waiting, traffic, the weather, bad hair day…
They took us through the exercises, nodding, recognising our obvious disdain. We really didn’t think we were that bad.
Until they showed the video.
The one where they show you a car stopping under test conditions. 30 – 0 MPH takes 23metres (75 feet). They build a wall of cardboard boxes with a picture of a family on the spot then get the driver to do it again, this time at 31MPH. The boxes burst and scatter, broken in all directions.
1 MPH. It doesn’t sound like much but it could be the difference between life and death.
And suddenly we don’t feel so marginal anymore. Our wrong is not so trivial. We’re guilty. We could have killed someone. Humbled, we all agree to try and do better.
This generation has got very adept at suppressing conscience, convincing ourselves we’re not that bad. We rationalise some pretty heavy stuff then simply shrug and say, ‘Well nobody’s perfect.’
But people are dying because of our self- absorbed choices. Bullied, abused, neglected, unwanted, inconvenient, addicted, despairing, abandoned without a map or a compass. We like to blame others but the truth is it’s often we ourselves who are doing the damage. We’re hurting ourselves and taking others down with us.
So yes, we need to be kind and look out for each other, but we also need to get honest about ourselves. We need to recognise our wonderful value as human beings but also think humbly about where we may be going wrong. We might very well need to ask forgiveness.
And should we find grace for another chance we must share that grace. It becomes the motivation and the compass to help us all do better.