Someone Whom You Don’t Know

by Larry Hehn on February 15, 2013

box with buttonI live within walking distance of a major highway. Sometimes when there’s been a crash, I can see a helicopter hovering over that section of the road.

Earlier this week, the helicopter was hovering. And the first thought through my head was, “I hope it isn’t anyone I know.”

I quickly gave my head a shake.

As if it would be alright if it was someone I didn’t know?

How sick is that?

But that happens all the time. Doesn’t it?


In an old Twilight Zone episode called Button, Button, Arthur and Norma Lewis are poor and in desperate need of cash. A strange box arrives at their door, along with a note. The note says a Mr. Steward will soon be paying them a visit. Later, Mr. Steward shows up with a key to the box.

He explains that if they press the button on the box, two things will happen: they will be given $200,000, and “someone whom you don’t know” will die.

They agonize for days about whether or not to press the button.

Finally, Norma gives in and decides to press it.

Mr. Steward shows up the next day with a briefcase containing $200,000. He informs them that the button on the box will be “reprogrammed” and given to someone else under the same terms and conditions.

“I can assure you,” he concludes, “it will be offered to someone whom you don’t know.”


When it’s “someone whom you don’t know”, it’s easier – as this Phil Collins song suggests – to “switch it off or look away”.

Long Long Way To Go*

While I sit here trying to think of things to say
Someone lies bleeding in a field somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go
I’ve seen all I wanna see today

While I sit here trying to move you any way I can
Someone’s son lies dead in a gutter somewhere
And it would seem that we’ve got a long long way to go
But I can’t take it anymore

Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off it will go away
Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off or look away

While I sit and we talk and talk and we talk some more
Someone’s loved one’s heart stops beating in a street somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go, I know
I’ve heard all I wanna hear today

Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off it will go away (switch it off it will go away)
Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off or look away (switch it off or look away)

Switch it off

Turn it off


It’s interesting how our concern level changes when the affected person switches from “someone whom you don’t know” to someone we do know. Especially ourselves.

Isn’t it?


What if it was someone you did know?

* Special thanks to katdish for introducing me to these lyrics almost two years ago, right after the tsunami in Japan.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

David Rupert February 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Larry, i live near a major trauma hospital, and every time i see one of those helicopters I pray. I pray for the victim, for the family, for the friends. It’s one thing I can do
David Rupert recently posted..Love … is like a fun house mirrorMy Profile


Larry Hehn February 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Right on, David. It’s one thing we all can do.


Ed Kugler February 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Excellent article. You make an excellent point that I for one overlook. Keep up the good work.


Larry Hehn February 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I always appreciate your perspective, Ed. Thank you very much!


Jesse February 16, 2013 at 12:43 am

Excellent post Larry. It’s easy for us to crassly ignore another’s suffering, but thank God that He never does. God knows everyone, and He certainly knows what it means to suffer.
Jesse recently posted..A wonderful servant; A terrible master.My Profile


Larry Hehn February 16, 2013 at 8:25 pm

So true, Jesse. Thanks for sharing!


Liz McLennan February 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

This is a great post, Larry. And you’re right – when bad things happen to others, I think we instinctly relax that it’s not someone we know and offer up thanks that it’s not us. I know I do.

That said, it occurs to me that beyond that gratitude and relief, is sadness because someone DOES know those who are injured or dying or have died and their fear and grief are enormous. Furthermore, ALL of us know someone who is hurting and in need of love, whether we realize that or not.

And in the end, we are, all of us, friends we simply haven’t met. Yet.

Aren’t we?


Larry Hehn February 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Well said, Liz. Yes we are!


Liz McLennan February 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Today, it IS someone I know – as I type this my brother-in-law and one of my nephews are in the ICU in London, because they were in a serious accident last night. Perhaps someone saw the helicopter hover, as they were airlifted off the 401.

So, my friend who I’ve not yet met, please pray for them and my sister, who is holding up but could do with some extra strength today and in all the days to come.
Liz McLennan recently posted..To Jack, With LoveMy Profile


Larry Hehn February 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Very sorry to hear that, Liz. I’m praying for you and the whole family.


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