I really like Lord Atkin’s definition of neighbour in the renowned case of Donoghue vs Stevenson.
Stay with me until the end😘, don’t allow the case scare you away. I’m driving somewhere😉.
On 26th May, 1932, Lord Atkin passed a judgement that became one of the most significant cases of the common law world, Donoghue v Stevenson. This case established the foundation of negligence law that is still used today in Queensland – the concept of duty of care.
For the summarised version of the case; it all started with a snail (hilarious every time I think about it). Mrs Donoghue found the remnants of a snail in her ginger beer (note that she already drank out of it. Very ‘eww’ worthy😂, or ‘nyama’ like we say in my area) manufactured by Mr David Stevenson.
Thereafter, she was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and she dragged Mr David to war in court. Unlike the David we know from the Bible who won battles countless times, this one lost. A particular part of Lord Atkin’s speech on the case is my area of interest;
The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in questionDon’t you just love this Atkin guy👏?
Does his explanation turn any wheel in your head? Well it turned many wheels in my head, from the bicycle wheels to the power bike wheels (none of which i have mastered 😂). Please don’t get dizzy just yet! Stay with me.
I coined a quote from Hebrew 12:14(follow peace with all men…) to check myself. It goes, “give or don’t give, but live and let live”. I do my best to remember this whenever I’m dealing with people that I am not in good terms with.
I have not spent many decades on this planet but the short while I’ve been here, I have come to understand that giving, being nice, being friendly and approachable (basically showing care) is foreign to so many people. It is not that they do not want to, they just don’t know how to.
I take Lord Atkin’s explanation to mean that your neighbour is someone affected by your act or lack thereof.
Now it is true that the girl isolated in one corner while everyone else is happily jumping about is a stranger to you. It is also true that she is your neighbour.
The little child asking you for directions could very well be the same rude one you met a few days ago. It doesn’t change the fact that he is your neighbour.
The strange red eyed guy smells like trouble and it is best to stay away. I agree, but he is still your neighbour.
The one that betrayed you over and over again, throwing your trust to the pigs is definitely one that you will never forget. The truth still remains that he is your neighbour.
The one that made promises and called you a fool when it was time to fulfil is very much your neighbour.
Very tiring, but there is no loophole in this law. Neighbour means neighbour.
No one is saying you have to be chummy or very friendly with everyone (that is impossible because of some very annoying humans that we all have in our circle😂) . The point is just that you fulfill your duty of care. You can learn to be civil at least, right? Remember that no matter how angelic you are, you’re still a demon in someone’s story (I wonder how many horns you have in those stories)
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. You do not have to approach the sad girl in the corner if you do not feel like it (some would but everyone cannot be the same), however, you owe her a duty of care to not start a rumor or point fingers to make her feel worse(this is something everyone should be able to do)
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. You do not have to help the rude child (someone else will or he’ll find an alternative without you. You are not indispensable so come off your high horse). Just fulfil your duty of care by going your way in silence without throwing insults at him. For those that will throw insults and still help, well….we’ll talk about that later.
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. The strange red eyed guy is none of your business if he is minding his business. No matter how bloody and unbelievable his story is. You owe a duty of care to keep your judgemental stares to yourself, it is useless. Unless of course you are a white slate;without blemish or sinful thoughts, then feel free to be the first to cast a stone.
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. As for that one that has betrayed you over and over again, you do not have to be as close as you were before. Just fulfill your duty of care by forgiving. Yes, forgive and move on for your peace of mind.
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. The one that promised and has not fulfilled, your duty of care is the same as that of the betrayer, forgive. (If it’s a contract type of promise, please collect your money or whatever is the equivalent😂. Without malice of course)
“Give or don’t give but live and let live”. If you do not know how to love your neighbour by giving your time, resources, encouragement and advice to mention a few. Then start with your duty of care. If you only have negative words and actions to put out in a particular situation then put nothing out! It could take just one word to destroy someone, and that is the greatest harm you could do to your neighbour. Turning them into a sort of robot that does not feel anything anymore. No one should live like that.
How many people have become empty snail shells because of you, your words, your actions or lack thereof?
The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbourLord Atkin
Loving is not just doing positive things, it’s also avoiding the negative things as best as you can.
👇This is my favourite example of love for those that want to go beyond the duty of care and show love.💕💖
this is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved youJohn 15:12
He gave everyone a chance, everyone. Not just his family and close friends. Not just those that believed in God. Not just the rich and smart ones. Not just the influential and strong ones. Not just the dark and fair skinned. Everyone was His neighbour.
Remember that because you do not like someone does not make them any less of a person. They will not suddenly poof and disappear. We just have to learn to live together as best as we can.
I could go on but let me end here. If you cannot help then at least try no to make it worse. That is the easiest way to show that you care. Then maybe one day, you’ll learn to love too.
give or don’t give but live and let liveProspoet
2 thoughts on “The Duty of Care”
Thank you for this piece. We really do need to learn how to help out by getting involve in the process or just ignoring the negatives and move on with our lives. A simple complement can be an act of care but so many don’t know it. Words like sorry, thanks etc. go a long way too. Just make someone know u know how it feels to be at your lowest by showing care without any expectation in return. I guess love is one big word that we can’t over emphasize. Lovely piece of write up dear.
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Thank you so much!💖
I agree completely