Jo de Blois
What Happened on Michigan Street?
I don’t really know what happened on Michigan street, nor what I should learn from what happened on Michigan street. It really took me weeks of ruminating, thinking, and praying about what happened... on Michigan street.
So here is what happened. I turned from the East Beltline on Michigan street to go home. I immediately saw a falcon that was sitting in the middle of the road, entirely frozen. It did not move. It was staring right ahead and did not move. In front of it layed a splattered baby falcon that had been crushed by a car. Around the falcon were some people who had parked their cars on the side of the road. They stood close to the big bird, but yet the bird didn’t move. One man got out and he took out a blanket from his car. He walked with it toward the bird. I had no idea what he was planning to do with this soft, fluffy blanket, but I felt like doing the same. Going to that falcon and hugging it, and telling it it was all going to be alright…. But it wasn't going to be alright. Nothing was going to be alright. And the bystanders knew that. I decided to drive on, but I started to cry. I don’t entirely understand why. I do know that I felt powerless like all these other people did.
But one question bugged me. Why did everyone care about the falcon? Why were people so upset? Why did they stop their cars? Why did I cry? Am I that sensitive?
Research on Empathy
Something I read the other day made sense of what happened on Michigan street. I read about a study by criminologist Jack Levin. For his research, he published a fake story about somebody who was hit by someone with a baseball bat. As he let people read the article, he altered the identity of the victim to a one year old baby, an adult human, a six year old dog, and a puppy. Then, he measured the empathy levels that people felt. Guess for whom people felt most empathy? People felt the same levels of empathy for the baby, the puppy and the adult dog. But much less for the adult human. The researcher states that our levels of empathy have to do with the vulnerability of the person, or thing being hurt. People cared for this bird because the bird was innocent, and man was guilty. Somehow in the bystanders there was a sense that righteousness had to be done and the wrong had to be made right.
What happened on Michigan street was that the story of the world was symbolized.
On Michigan street, a human killed something that was innocent from creation and showed the brokenness of this world.
On Michigan street, God showed that people still had the ability to have compassion and to care.
On Michigan street, people tried with feeble attempts to make right what was broken and what was wronged.
And on Michigan street, I learned that some damage people cannot undo. People can fix damage to a small extent. But the bigger the brokenness and the deeper the wounds, the greater the physician needs to be. Isn’t that what we see in the story of very broken people? That God’s grace, and God’s presence, and God’s miracles seem to be greater, the greater the need?
Here is the sting, though of this story. Jesus, the most innocent benign, died at the hands of man to make all things right. The Father watched how Jesus, the pinnacle of innocence, died by the hands of man. People did not stop on the road... like they did with the bird. They should have! Because innocence and empathy is supposed to go hand-in-hand! People did not stop, except to laugh and to mock Jesus. And yet, we need that same Jesus whom almost nobody cared for at that time to come back and make the story of the world new. Is that not ironic?
Michigan street was the first time that I can remember praying for Jesus to come back and to make all things new.