My son saved a man’s life yesterday. He arrived home shaken, yet all in one piece, and made his momma cry and then tearfully thank God with the story he told.
As he came home from his often-frustrating job yesterday dressed in his clothes that are so filthy that he may look less than the brilliant man that he is, he told me about how he had approached a four-way stop less than three miles away from home, and saw an elderly man riding a bike approach the same intersection. The man had waited, in his blue poncho in the rain, for his turn to cross and began pedaling. About halfway across the busy road, his feet slipped off the pedals and he struggled. At the same moment, Justin noticed a car approaching from his right whose driver clearly had no intentions of stopping at the sign.
In milliseconds, my son realized that he was about to witness the death of a man that had reminded him of his well-loved great-grandfather.
This is the moment when you realize, as a mother, that your child has his own path and that path will happen regardless of how much you like it or not.
Because my son drove his big, blue pickup into the intersection in such a way that he would effectively block the road and stop her car before it hit the man.
And he did.
And the woman slammed on her brakes so hard the the cell phone she was using (ahem) flew into the windshield, and she stopped within inches of Justin’s door. The old man on one side, breathing hard and eyes wide, the woman in her little car on the other, breathing hard and eyes wide.
“Are you okay?” he asked the old man on his left.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you okay?” he asked the woman on his right.
“Yes,” she humbly replied.
And he drove home.
In a world where life is so fragile and not one moment can be taken for granted, I feel frustrated.
Because, you see, my son (one hero on my short list) works at a job, as we all have at some point in our lives, where he is treated as less than he is.
He will not complain and would be mad at me for even writing these words. Good thing it’s our little secret, right?
Whether it’s by people who think they’ve arrived in life and this somehow qualifies them to belittle the lowly employee who services them or a boss who just doesn’t care about his employees as people, we’ve all been treated as less than we are.
We get grouped into levels of worth based on one word.
This one, seemingly innocent word makes me want to grab my family and run for the hills.
Label: a short word or phrase descriptive of a person, group, intellectual movement, etc.
Seriously, if we, as a culture, were incapable of labeling anything or anyone the world would change. But, as it stands, we group together in classifications and we exclude, and brand people, and judge people, and jump to conclusions about people. And isn’t it ridiculous?
As if I’m less because of the label or lack of one on, say, my purse.
I unwittingly participated in my own social experiment the other day. I had dropped three of my people off at a huge venue to watch a Coldplay concert in another city than my own. It takes about three hours to arrive at a city that Coldplay would be playing to more than just cows and squirrels and the like, so off we went.
Happy girls, happy momma as I found a nearby shopping complex in which to while away my few hours to myself where I could do whatever it was I felt like doing.
What I felt like doing was changing my clothes. You see, I am a horribly messy eater and really should factor this into my packing because inevitably I wear lunch. Today, my comfiest grey skirt looked like it had been comfy for too many days and too many meals as my chicken piccata from lunch had left its mark.
So sad. Must buy some jeans.
My iPhone found me this lovely little outdoor mall. Little did I know that folks with a splotch on their skirt do not shop here. Especially folks with a splotch on their skirt and no label on their purse.
And folks who work here must’ve been told not to help people who eat and wear chicken piccata. Sigh… I must’ve missed that on the sign when I arrived.
So, I got myself some clean clothes and some cute (clearance) shoes and changed my look. I went from comfy and ignored to jeans and heels, and all of a sudden I began to be treated differently. “Yes, ma’am. How can I help you, ma’am?”
Can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve been in a social group in which I am classified as the outsider. Can’t tell you how that feeling frustrates me. As if our worth is determined by our shoes, or the condition of our yard, or size of our diamond, or hairstyle, or career choice, or age, or gender, or which church we attend–or don’t. The list is endless–political views, car you drive, how many letters follow your name–or don’t.
I’m weary of feeling judged for being myself.
And I’m even more weary of the judgment flung at my children for choosing to be exactly who they were raised to be–individuals!
But not weary enough to conform.
Being different makes you stronger, but it also opens mouths around you.
I guess people just want to relate. We group up with folks of a like-mind. It feels good to have somebody get you, doesn’t it? So I suppose that’s how these little subcultures form. This is what we think and we call it…”____”. And now were not sure what to do with you if you don’t think like us.
I’m guilty. We all are to whatever degree we allow ourselves. Us and them. It’s running rampant.
But, it needs to be evaluated.
Having done some traveling and listening to folks who’ve traveled more than I, I’ve learned something priceless. No matter how far away we are from home, people are people and if you peeled the skin off like a banana (like a friend of mine used to say) we are all pretty much the same.
We all long to be loved and to be seen and to matter.
That’s it. It’s the holy grail.
And it’s our job to care less about the labels we apply than the people unconsciously wearing them.
So do it. Listen for it in your words today. Find the labels you apply to folks and rip those suckers off–fast like a band-aid. Stop the cycles we’ve begun for our children. Reach out past your comfort level and make someone feel like they matter. Put yourself right there in the intersection and brace yourself. It may just save a life.