Today I was an innocent bystander.
In reflecting on past moral decisions, I have difficulty selecting one pivotal moment in my life that “changed” or “defined” me. Rather, I consider the progression of my moral shape to take place over a series of decisions in varying circumstances. Those decisions, in turn, mold who I am as a person and how I treat myself and others.
I will do my best to preserve anonymity in this story.
Yesterday, I traveled to New York City with certain classmates of management class to meet with alumni in the finance industry, tour the New York Stock Exchange and attend a We Do fundraising campaign event. The evening was filled with fine food, intimate conversations with older people and, of course, drinking. This morning, we hopped, or better yet, slumped, onto a bus back to Lewisburg. Most of my classmates continued with the intoxicated debauchery throughout the 3-hour drive from the urban clutter of New York City to the sprawling green of Pennsylvania. Somewhere between Blakeslee and Berwick, one of the members laid down in his double-seat and fell into a mild sleep. Anxiously, a few ambitious members of the group beckoned for someone to draw on the passed out individual with a Sharpie marker.
Awake, tired and antsy, I realized I had two sharpies in my backpack below my seat.
After doing some thinking, and rebuffing my gut reaction, I decided to keep quiet. Some deeper inclination kept me from adding fuel to the fire – I thought about all of the recent stories of group hazing, intended or unintended, and it ultimately deterred me from lurching for the marker. I conclude two things – First, when alcohol is involved, always think twice. Second, humoring members of a group by imposing on another, while exciting in the moment, can indeed be a humiliating act.
The scene continued when another classmate procured a highlighter from her travel bag. Interestingly, however, no drawing occurred. The individual who aimed the pen at the sleeper felt a wave of compassion, announcing “I’m too good a friend.”