On the Corner

by Robert Docter –

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a young prince whose father was the king. The prince was loved by almost all the people ­ disliked by none ­ despised only by those jealous of his relationship with his father. Everyone called him Prince Sal for his name was unpronounceable. At this moment in time he felt very confused and hurt. He didn’t know what to do.

Prince Sal’s father, the king, ruled his land with generosity and affection ­ with justice and fairness according to their laws and traditions. Prince Sal was like him, but he knew he was not the king. He was much more willing to forgive ­ willing to temper justice with mercy. He was not weak. He believed it was not in his authority to judge the conduct of anyone but himself. He worked diligently to teach others a good way to live by living a good way himself. Others took different roads. Some chose to focus on the bad and punish those who did not fit their good. Some chose to ignore those who might be helped by their caring. They didn’t care. Some worked very hard and taught lengthy lessons which went to people’s heads yet strayed from their hearts. Sal just tried to be Sal and send consistent messages about how he cared and tried, as much as possible, to carry others’ burdens. He supported and related to those about him. He always tried to make sure those with whom he related understood why he made the choices he did, but he did not impose himself.

A small river established the border separating the land of Prince Sal from a neighboring land that had very few rules or laws and many people just doing whatever they wanted. Centuries ago they had not simply been neighbors, they had been brothers. Now, in this land across the river there was much fighting and anger, and they were very jealous of the land of Prince Sal.

In the land across the river a mysterious illness had spread thought the people. Many suddenly became ill and could not be restored to health Their bodies could no longer fight diseases to which, formerly, they had been immune. They wasted away, and quickly, they died. Few in this land understood the relationship between what they perceived as ordinary behavior within their culture and death in large numbers. Very soon, most of those in their thirties were dead, and most in their twenties were gradually dying.

In the land of Prince Sal, they had learned that the illness spread because of promiscuous sexual contact, and that, once infected, the person carried the disease to all other partners. The people here had been educated and alerted to the danger. Still, many died. Scientists in the land of Prince Sal soon discovered how to help keep people safe and taught them how to protect themselves from the deadly promise of the disease. They developed a process they called prophylaxis ­ which means “health guard.”

They had plenty of it in the land of Prince Sal, and he immediately sought to deliver ten thousand cubares of the precaution to their neighbors in the land across the river. He also set up a system of education. He spoke to his father about the plan. His father spoke to his ministers. Some of these ministers led weekly worship services and spoke to their Higher Power regularly. They deliberated and reported to the king. This is what confused and hurt Sal. They asked the king to forbid Sal from delivering the precaution and the information to their neighbors across the river and asked the king to abandon the use of the precaution in his own land. “And what is your rationale?” the king asked.

They told him that carrying out the plan violated two moral principles: one, it implied endorsement of wrong action; and two, it encouraged the wrong action by protecting all who used the precaution. Then the king said: “And what do you answer to this, my son?”

Sal thought for a moment, then said: “What is the greater sin ­ to withhold a neighborly spirit of life saving love or surrender to the fear that something bad may come from something good? Which is better ­ to save lives and risk an implied endorsement of wrong behavior or to withhold the drug, count the dead, and be certain of our moral virtue?”

The king looked at Sal and smiled. “You teach us two valuable lessons, my son: one about the sanctity of life and the other about neighborly love. Be about your business with our brothers across the river.”

With that, Sal’s hurt and confusion disappeared.

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