Stop Go Stop –
Yesterday, on my way to a community men’s group in Shelbyville, TN I came upon some road construction. The line of traffic wasn’t too long and there was a man holding one of those signs with “stop” on one side and “slow” on the other. After a few moments he turned the sign around and we began to creep along. Suddenly, after only flipping the sign around he did it again! The car in front of me slammed on its breaks as did I. Raising my shoulders and my hands as if to say; “What’s happening?” I watched the sign man walk across the road to a county work truck in the other lane, throw his sign in the back and hop in. The man was done working for the day. His job was finished and he left the rest of us to figure out how to untangle ourselves from his mess. Eventually, traffic began to move and soon we were all back on our way to our destination.
On the road of life, there are people & happenings which slow or stop our progress. This is not always a bad thing. Rest and reflection give us time to renew and make sure we are still headed in the correct direction. However, there are those times when people are only concerned about themselves and put roadblocks in our way because it makes life easier for them. Wisdom allows us to know the difference between the two and how to navigate around them and get moving again.
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Us and Them?
I was in the checkout line this week behind a Hispanic family; a mom and three children. Two of the kids were hanging with mom while one was at a bargain bin admiring a bracelet with glass beads. The mother finished checking out, gathered her things and headed for the door. The problem is she forgot a child, the one admiring the bracelet. The cashier caught my eye and said; “You can come up now.” I smiled, gesturing to the girl and quipped; “I don’t think she’s ready.” “Oh. They do that all the time! Forget their children and leave the store. Come on up.” I wasn’t going to push the girl out of the way and so asked her; “Where’s your mom? Did she just go out the doors?” The little one stared at me and I’m not sure she understood what I was saying or was intimidated by a stranger. She moved and I kept my eye on the door while the cashier scanned my items. She continued to insult the mom and lumped all Hispanics together with condescending phrases; “They all do that, don’t care about their children. When I was growing up my mother would’ve never left me. She always knew where we were but they don’t care.” I finished checking out, retrieved my bag and headed out the door. I was annoyed and concerned.
When I got outside I scanned the parking lot for the mom and sure enough, she realized her child was missing and was heading back to the store. My worry dissipated. My annoyance at the cashier persists now as I am writing about it. I don’t understand how a person can casually dismiss an entire race of people. This child with the bracelet, this mom with her hands full, didn’t need judgment. They needed understanding instead of insults, someone to help the mom not forget her most precious cargo. Moms of all races have their hands full. Moms forget. Moms of all nationalities are burdened with remembering all kinds of things and if they are new to the United States of America there’s more she and her family has to deal with in a nation where a growing section of the community is hostile to them.
Instead of a fist offer a hand. Instead of a look of contempt offer empathy. Instead of judgment offer humanity.
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Earlier this afternoon I stopped to get a cold drink. The temps today are in the 90’s with humidity close to this mark as well. I exited the truck and began to walk across the parking lot into the restaurant when a small white Chevy truck, moving faster than needed caught my eye. I stopped, he didn’t. I watched as he passed and he stared back at me. I was thankful to have looked before crossing and wondered why he was in such a hurry.
Following my close encounter I reflected on times when people had tried to “run me over.” Moments and seasons when someone had an aim, purpose, goal they wanted to reach and didn’t consider how it impacted those around them. Whether it was an over-powering personality, a self focused agenda, a spirit draining selfishness, their destination was reached at the peril of others.
I also thought about my own pursuits and how, at times, I was more concerned with the journey than my fellow sojourners. Finding the balance between getting where we need to go and being sure our passions and purposes do no harm is important and necessary to ensure we reach our destinations, together.