Writing about my favorite Ethics Hero of all time, Don Bedwell, in 2005, I began, “There are special and rare people whose ethical instincts are so pure and keen that they can make the rest of us feel inadequate.” Like Don Bedwell, Micheal De Beyer is such an individual.
Brittany Mathis, 19, works for De Beyer at his Kaiserhof Restaurant and Biergarten in Montgomery, Texas, . Her mom and older sister work at the restaurant as well, so she would describe her boss as a family friend. In December, Brittany learned that she has a 1.5 inch brain tumor She can’t afford to find out whether the tumor is benign or malignant, but her father died from a similar tumor years ago, so her situation is dire. She doesn’t have health insurance.
De Beyer has decided to sell his restaurant, which he opened more than 15 years ago and has an estimated worth of $2 million, to pay for whatever medical treatments are necessary to save Brittany’s life. “I’m not able to just sit by and let it happen,” De Beyer told a local paper. “I couldn’t live with myself; I would never be happy just earning money from my restaurant knowing that she needs help.”
Most of us don’t think like this. Don Bedwell donated a kidney to save the life of Barbara Rector, a waitress who had told him while he was dining in her restaurant that she was going to have to stop working because her kidneys were failing. He told those who expressed amazement at his altruistic act, giving his kidney to a woman he barely knew, that he didn’t think it was remarkable at all. From the post:
After all, he says, lots of children and grandchildren depend on people that have no healthy kidneys, and so many people are walking around with an extra one. It is clear that to Bedwell, it didn’t matter that he barely knew Barbara Rector. All that mattered was that she was a human being who needed help, and that he was in a position to give it. To Bedwell, it was an easy choice. But it was only an easy choice for a man with Bedwell’s ethical priorities. Most of us would consider the pain, the risk of surgery, and the lost work time as decisive disincentives. We would tick off reasons, excuses and rationalizations…
“If I give her my kidney, I won’t be able to give it to someone I really care about.”
“She wouldn’t give me her kidney; why should I give her mine?”
“Nobody gives their organs to strangers!”
“People will think I’m crazy!”
“She’ll find another donor.”
Most likely of all, it wouldn’t even occur to us to offer Barbara Rector a kidney. But let’s be absolutely clear: a world where offering a stranger a life-saving kidney is the natural thing to do would be a far more ethical, peaceful, generous and caring world than the one we live in now.
The same can be said of a world where an employer feels that giving up his business to save the life of a young woman who works there is the natural thing to do. People like Don Bedwell and Micheal De Beyer can can inspire us to build such a world, or if that seems too ambitious, at least a kinder, more generous one than we live in now.