Thursday, July 15, 2010


A few days ago I went to visit my brother and his family. I got started a little later than I’d wanted to (really only about a half hour) and had my sister’s GPS to guide me. If you have a GPS, you know it will give you an ETA (estimated time of arrival). I was a little obsessed with the ETA, especially since I succeeded in making it go down a minute or two in my first hour of driving.

And then the progress I’d been making ended. Traffic slowed…and then stopped momentarily, and then picked up, but only to a speed of about 7 to 10 MPH. “Oh, no!” I thought, “How will this impact my ETA?” I was annoyed with whatever or whomever was causing the delay.

Then I noticed that across the median there was no traffic going in the opposite direction; zero cars were passing by. At that point I knew that the cause of my frustration wasn’t construction. It was an accident and a pretty bad one to have stopped traffic in one direction and slowed it down considerably in the other. A minute or two later, I saw, going in the same direction as I but in the lanes across the median, two ambulances speeding to the scene.

That was when my ETA obsession disappeared. So what if I arrived a little later at my brother’s house? At least (I hoped), I was going to arrive there. There were other people whose plans had changed a lot more than mine. I would ultimately arrive at the destination I set out for. Others were instead going to a hospital. Knowing that, my short-term priorities were set straight.

I sometimes seem to have a split personality. There are times when I think I do a decent job putting others first. That morning I had worked with a group of students at a food bank. There are other times when I know my life is way too focused on me. That afternoon I was (at least initially) annoyed with people who would dare to inconvenience me by slowing me down. Hmmm…

I think my desire to write about this comes from my own need for reminders that life is not all about me and what I want. It is not about speeding from place to place. It is about caring for others. It is about noticing others- not just those I want to notice, but those who need my attention, whom I might otherwise overlook. While I couldn’t do anything to help those at the crash scene, I could pray for everyone there… and I did. I could be thankful for my own good fortune…and I was and am. I find it unsettling that it often takes witnessing someone else’s misfortune to remind me of the abundant blessings in my life. Perhaps this particular reminder will help me to recognize the blessings without first observing a contrasting tragedy…Perhaps it will help me notice and reach out to those who need my care and my prayers, even when giving them that attention disrupts my own self-centered plans…

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