Our family recently watched the movie “Manchester By The Sea.” The main character is Casey Affleck, who is a janitor for an apartment complex. He lives an extremely unhappy life. As the story unfolds, we find out that he was previously married with two beautiful daughters. One winter night after partying with his friends, he puts a few logs in the living room fireplace and then walks to the store for more beer. While he is gone, a log rolls out of the fireplace and his home burns down.
The firefighters were able to save his wife, but his two daughters die in the fire. His wife ends up blaming him for the fire and the death of their children. She divorces him and he is shunned from the small town because of what happened. His life is irrevocably different and the character doesn’t seem to be able to experience any happiness again.
Now I realize this is just a movie, but the lesson is still extremely valuable.
One bad decision can completely ruin our lives.
A similar real-life situation actually happened to my daughter’s soccer coach a few years ago. One rainy fall night, he was at home having a few beers. His daughter (who was on the soccer team with my daughter) had one her friends from the neighborhood over to play video games. At around 10 that night, it was time for the friend to head home. It was dark and rainy, so the soccer coach decided to drive the friend home. He didn’t want this young girl to have to walk home in the rain at night. The friend only lived a few streets away in the same neighborhood.
About the same time, a police officer in our town got called to the hospital because of an altercation with patient. As the officer was speeding to get to the hospital, the soccer coach turned into a driveway in the road in front of him. The officer swerved and ended up hitting a large tree. The police officer died in the crash.
I had become friends with the soccer coach, as I would help out during the practices. He was just a Dad who had volunteered to coach the team, because nobody else would step up and do it. He worked 50 hours a week and tried to coach the team in his spare time to be a good Dad. He was the nicest guy who ended up going to prison for aggravated vehicular homicide. He is still in prison today as I write this. I’m not entirely sure, but I would have to think the community has shunned this family for causing the death of the police officer. You can read a news story about this accident here.
Think about the horrendous loss spurring from one bad decision. And the bad decision was actually to help protect the girl and keep her safe.
The family of the police officer lost a cherished love one. The officer had a wife and a 3-year old daughter. Their lives will never be the same again. The police force lost a great officer. The community lost a great man.
The family of the soccer coach also lost a loved one when he went to jail. Plus, they lost many friends in the process. Think about how the neighbors and other kids at school would treat them. And on top of all of this, he has to live with the quilt of causing the accident leading to the death of a police officer.
I’ve thought about this accident countless times since it happened in 2013. I believe this accident has had such a major impact on me because I probably would have done the exact same thing he did. I wouldn’t have let the young girl walk home in the dark. I would have insisted on driving her home thinking I would only be going two blocks on 25 mph residential streets. I would have justified this bad decision by trying to do what was right to keep the girl safe, warm, and dry.
Both the bad decision in the movie and the bad decision in real life were made after drinking.
Over the years, I’ve made many bad decisions after drinking heavily. I’ve been extremely lucky that these decisions didn’t injure, hurt, or kill anyone. I even quit drinking completely for around 8 years after coming home incredibly drunk at 6pm after going to a Browns game with one of my best friends. My 2 year-old daughter had the pleasure of seeing me fall-down drunk. Thankfully, she doesn’t remember.
There are many well known individuals who don’t drink, or do drugs. Here is one you’ve probably heard of… Warren Buffett. Could Buffett’s decision not to drink be to eliminate any possibility of making horrendous mistakes? Maybe.
I’m writing this just after watching LIVE PD for the first time. This is a show that follows police officers in different cities as they handle different traffic stops and domestic calls. Here’s a clip from the show:
It seems we may have the opportunity to eliminate many problems and a great deal of unhappiness by simply avoiding, or significantly minimizing, alcohol or drugs. I actually have been trying to watch LIVE PD when my kids are home hoping they see how costly all of this can be. I’m hoping they learn from observation rather than experience.