I was angry as I ran down the steep hillside into the valley with its idyllic stream and beautiful gazebos rising from the wooded lawns. I live in a beautiful little town, but that wasn’t what I was focused on at this particular moment.
“Right of way! Pedestrians have the right of way!”
How could she have done that to me? She had to have seen me! I’m not a little man, standing just over six feet tall. I’ll admit that after a year of frequent exercise and conscientious calorie intake, there is not as much of me to view as there once was, but I’m still not so small that she could have missed my presence as I ran toward the intersection.
None of it was my fault. None of it!
The thoughts raced through my mind as I shook my left wrist to loosen it up. It hurt a bit from where my hand had smacked the hood of her SUV just seconds before as I skipped out of her way. Right into the path of the oncoming traffic. If there had been a vehicle coming up the hill…
My brain focused on the driver once more. How could she be so unaware? She didn’t even pause at the stop sign!
I had the right of way!
My run along one of the main thoroughfares in our little town had promised to be much like all the others, but before I had run a mile, the big white vehicle had interrupted my pace. As I trotted toward that particular intersection, I had seen the auto come into view, but I didn’t even slow up. She had a stop sign and would surely observe it. I started across. She rolled right through the stop, her big chrome bumper grazing my leg, as I quickly laid my hand heavily on the hood and jumped to avoid being knocked down.
“Idiot!” The word came out before I even thought it.
Looking up into the terror-stricken eyes of the driver, I saw that she was holding a cell phone up to her ear. (I’m confident she would have described my eyes in the same way at that precise moment.) Unhurt, except for the slight tingle in my wrist, I ran on down the hill without stopping.
I hear the voice of my father, as he taught a life lesson which he hoped his sons would always remember.
“Having the right of way is no protection from being hurt. Lots of people say the words in the ambulance as they are taken to the hospital. ‘But–I had the right of way!'”
I thought I had learned all the lessons he taught me.
I’ll remember this one the next time.
Right now, there are a few readers who would like me to rail on cell phone use while driving. I could do that. I won’t.
One might even expect me to rant about drivers who are in such a hurry that they don’t observe traffic signs. I could do that too, but I might also step on my own toes with such an object lesson. I’ll move on from that one without a lecture either.
What I’d like to do is spend a moment speaking of my place in the world, if that’s okay. It is the lesson I needed to learn on that day and, come to think of it, any other day I’ve ever gotten up to interact with other humans. Like my father’s teaching, I seem to have to relearn it periodically.
There’s a good possibility that someone reading this could stand to think about it, too. So, here’s the lesson to be learned from my interaction with the big white vehicle: I’m not as big as I think I am.
We’re not as big as we think we are.
Profound, isn’t it?
I remember hearing a phrase many years ago. The man was deriding a civic leader in our little town when he said it.
“Big fish in a little pond.”
I knew there was another phrase which mirrored it. Little fish in a big pond. I understand the meaning of both better now.
We want to be important. We want to be noticed. So, we find a situation where that can happen, be it work or church, civic club or garage band. We do whatever is necessary to become the big fish.
Vanity soon follows such a rise. But, as I consider it tonight, I have reached a conclusion. It’s not such a revolutionary idea. It’s just–there will always be bigger fish. Always.
They will eat us for dinner. That, or they’ll chase us back to our little pond, terrified.
All our protestations, all our arguments about our rights and our achievements will mean nothing.
Less than nothing.
I’m wondering, does that make us want to treat the other little fish differently? It should. There is nothing like a taste of our own medicine to open our eyes to things we’ve never seen before.
The Apostle begged his readers to take the lesson to heart centuries ago. His words warned that we should not think more highly of ourselves than is proper. I think he may have gone on to say that we all swim in the same pond. Okay, so it wasn’t quite those words, but the idea is the same. The instructions still resonate today.
I’m ready to swim with the other fishes in the pond, no matter their size. I hope I don’t need another practical lesson like my street corner meeting with the car anytime soon.
At the very least, I hope I’ll remember that I’m just a small fish in the huge pond of humanity.
I like the words that I read in a little book by Charles Swindoll a number of years ago. I’ve quoted them before.
Nobody act big. Nobody act small. Everybody act medium.
I’m going to keep swimming.
I’ll try not to run over you.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”
(Romans 12:3 ~ NIV)
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
(from Adagia ~ Desiderius Erasmus ~ Dutch priest/theologian ~ 1466-1536)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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