My errand list was lengthy this morning as my eldest and I set out to see how much we could accomplish. It was the kind of day that begs to be filled with old movies, apple cider, and cozy blankets. The rain has been coming down so hard the last couple days, the pup of the house takes a look outside and opts out of his daily walk. And he's a Lab. A water dog.
Anyway, we had things we needed to get done before Thursday's holiday, so off we went. We hadn't gotten far when we came upon a woman clad in rain gear poking something in the standing water that poured over the road. At first glance, both DD and I assumed her cane was stuck in the puddle. I pulled over and hopped out, thankful for my Columbia jacket. (There is a reason Columbia is an Oregon company.) As I approached the woman and offered my assistance, I realized she was trying to clear the storm drain. The fallen leaves had successfully blocked off nearly all water flow to the drain, causing the small lake over the road. As we stood in the rain talking, I was shocked by how many people drove by with little care for us there on the edge of the puddle. Car after car didn't so much as slow down or widen their berth around us to avoid splashing us. As car spray splattered me, I commented on their actions. "Oh they think it's funny," she explained. She went on to tell me that every year the drain gets plugged and every year, she's out there with her shovel to clear it. She's concerned that if she doesn't, drivers will hydroplane and get into accidents. Ironically, these drivers who she is concerned about and willingly getting drenched to help are the same ones who carelessly pass by with little thought for the wave of water their cars throw at her. The kicker of the conversation was when she told me in the 10 years she's lived at that house, I'm the first person to stop to offer to help.
I returned to the car dismayed. How could ten years go by with no one stopping to help this woman? Have we really become so self-centered as a culture? Granted, I know I can be as self-focused and oblivious as the best of 'em. And I know that in many situations, women especially need to be cautions from a safety standpoint. But there was nothing threatening about this situation. Nothing that would cause a person to pause and wonder if it was unwise to offer assistance. Nope, from my standpoint, all evidence pointed to dozens of self-absorbed, rushing people.
The situation afforded an awesome opportunity for conversation with my daughter. I have harped and nagged at the kids to think about how their actions affect others. To slow down long enough to consider how someone else is feeling. To develop empathy. As I related the woman's and my conversation to my daughter, she was able to see why I've been hounding them. She gained a firsthand knowledge of the value of service and the cost of self-centeredness. And I was thrilled to see her believe that God had wanted her to come with me to be a part of that experience. She even excitedly planned to buy a card, thanking the woman for being considerate!
Ironically, as we went on our way, I found myself fighting to slow down and practice what I'd been preaching. Stores were crowded, traffic was obnoxious, people were feeling rushed, and that panicked holiday spirit permeated the air. Isn't it sad that the one time of year folks should be more joyful and charitable and gracious is actually the scariest time of the year to leave the house? My desire is that this little moment in a busy day will serve as a valuable kick-off to my holiday season. That rather than becoming caught up in the rush and panic, I will slow down, smile, extend grace. As my daughter and I agreed, what better way is there to share Jesus, than to have your actions stand out from others'. Sometimes it's hard to know how to do that. I daresay a smile and common courtesy may be a good place to start.