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Parable at a Bridge


Idaho’s 486-foot-high Perrine Bridge is one of the world’s most-frequented sites for parachutists who jump from fixed objects. But when Tamara Judkins and her daughter, Rebekah, drove through on a summer day in 2008, they noticed that the man “sobbing and leaning over the railing” didn’t have a parachute.

Judkins recounted to the Times News of Twin Falls how she circled back, parked, and told her daughter to call for help. Then Judkins did something that none of the 20 or so bystanders had thought to do: “I took off towards him, wrapped my arms around him and held onto him.”

Judkins later said that as she tried to talk the man into coming into town with her for a cup of coffee, the gathering crowd just watched, “many of them snapping photos.”

Eventually, Twin Falls County sheriff’s deputies were able to grab the man, whose name was not released, and pull him back over the railing.

For weeks after I read of the incident, there was one detail that I couldn’t get out of my mind — those people in the crowd, watching and snapping photos.

It reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Plenty of passers-by saw the man at the side of the road, obviously suffering from his injuries, naked and close to death. But most of them were too busy to stop.

In this newspaper account — a parable for our age — the issue isn’t one of busy-ness. No, we are a society of gawkers, eavesdroppers and peeping Toms; and we have plenty of time. The problem is that suffering — a potential suicide, a televised hanging, tortured prisoners half a world away — too easily excites prurience instead of sympathy . . . leaving me to question my character (and my motives):

Am I more likely to sacrifice for a neighbor in need?

Or take pictures?

Am I more likely to sacrifice for a neighbor in need? Or take pictures?

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