Which is worse? A stab wound or a sprained ankle?

Let me set the scene for you.

photo source

It’s a bustling ER. Fluorescent lights produce a hum which melts into a larger orchestra chaired by rows of beeps, merging conversations, and the clinging of metal.

Through the automatic doors walks a middle aged man. His eyes are quiet and his face is frozen with a sort of shock. At first it looks as though he’s seen a ghost and then it seems as though he is the ghost.

In a moment, the shock of his face is transferred to yours. You notice the handle of a knife emerging from his head. It’s just above his left ear.

There you are, standing behind the reception desk, your coffee mug in your hand, your phone ringing. You stare. He approaches the desk. “I have a question.” You don’t respond. “Excuse me.” Nothing.

You snap out of it enough to respond. “Sir,” you clear your throat. “Sir. Don’t. Move. I’ll bring a wheelchair.” The man, confused, replies, “Uh, no, no, I just have a question.”

He continues, “My neighbour sprained his ankle. He was putting together this thing for his kids. It’s called a slipping slide. Or… something like that. I don’t know. Look, it’s just that, he doesn’t have insurance. How much would it cost for him to see someone here? He’s really in a lot of pain. I just thought I’d come here and see what it would cost him to get it looked at.”

Your shock has now fully translated itself into something more severe than complete confusion. At this point, people have gathered around. Doctors are approaching, the security guy is fidgeting. Usually when there’s a knife involved, he’s involved. In this case, he’s unsure of what to do.

Does this guy not notice?

You ask, “Sir, your head… a knife?”

He replies, “Look. I’m here about my friend right now. His ankle hurts a lot.”


Concern for others, even honest concern, can sometimes just be a way of delaying the acceptance of our own problems. Even with a log in the eye or a knife in the head, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to distract ourselves.

Sometimes concern for others is just the street name for a drug called denial.


Hi, I’m Michael and this is my daily project where I write about diverse ideas.

This is Dose #103.

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