His transgression; my guilt

The ongoing reports of drunk driving punctuate the fact that our society has not solved the problem. Does the fault lie totally with the drunk driver, or should all of us accept some responsibility?
Again a touch of guilt carries me back to an episode of nearly three decades past. For months, I woke up often with a feeling of foreboding. It arrived like a dream in the waking moments of the day with the realism of a videotape. I could see fellow worker, “Joe” at the wheel of a speeding car, driving in a drunken stupor. The dream ended as he struck another vehicle and both cars erupted in flames.
When the premonition occurred, and on most other days, I would check the radio to see if anyone had died in a flaming crash. Hearing nothing I would relax for the rest of the day. Joe occupied the next office at work. We all liked him, but knew he drank heavily and drove while drunk. He laughed at admonition, sure he could handle a car no matter how much he drank.
On a day I had not experienced the premonition or tuned in the radio, I walked into work whistling and with a bounce in my step, only to see moist eyes and long faces everywhere.
“Haven’t you heard?” asked Don.
“What?” I asked.
“Joe died in a car crash last night. He had been drinking with a friend. They hit another car and burned to death. The couple in the other car got out with serious injury. Joe was such a great guy. We will miss him.”
I didn’t say a word, just marched into my office in anger. “Joe a great guy?” I said to myself. “Well he just killed himself and a friend. How can anyone call him a great guy?”
I paced back and forth for a few moments thinking words not normally part of my vocabulary. For the next few days I heard nothing but tributes to Joe. Each time I heard more comments about what a wonderful guy he had been, I grew angrier inside. The company closed down for the funeral, but I didn’t attend. Time passed and Joe’s ghost vanished from the office and my early-morning omens never recurred.
I have often asked myself why I got so angry. Maybe I became angry to cover my inadequacy and guilt. I had known about Joe’s drinking and driving and warned him of the danger. I could have enlisted others to help convince him to seek help, to get counselling, to face the truth about his lifestyle.
Should I have ratted on him, getting the police to lay for him? I had done so little, even after receiving those early morning warnings. Had God sent me a message, intending me to intervene? I had done nothing.
Did I get angry because society still allows people like Joe to commit awful crimes?
I still don’t have all the answers, although I have forgiven Joe. I can’t go back and change history, but I can say this: If you see a potential Joe, do something before he or she ruins the lives of others. Do it before your inaction generates a load of guilt that will take years to shake.

Ray Wiseman