I made a bad choice last week. As I drove toward my downtown office, I
spotted a man walking briskly through the heavy rain. Instinctively I
thought, I need to stop and offer him a ride. Preparing to stop, I glanced
over into the passenger seat and noticed a pile of...well, stuff would be
the best way to describe it. A stack of work prepared the night before, a
camera, a jacket, my cell phone, and several telephone messages tucked inside
my Day Timer occupied the seat my neighbor in the rain really did need.
Seeing the pile of stuff and thinking of the hassle required to clear it
away for a passenger, I drove past the now dripping wet man on the street.
For the next fifteen minutes I carried on a conversation with myself about
The traffic behind me would have been a problem had I stopped. And besides,
moving the stack of papers might have messed up my hard work! I reasoned
with the voice inside.
Yes, but did you see how cold and miserable that guy was? My interior
friend shot back.
Yes, I saw him. Poor guy. But, stopping would have been a major ordeal
with all this stuff here. Do you know how much trouble it would have been
to move it all into the back seat, quickly get him in the car and get going
again? Why, my stuff would have ended up all over the back floorboard, I
Yes, I know. But, he was on his way to work. Didnt you see his lunch box
and his uniform? the pesky voice pressed on.
Yeah, that caught my eye. I feel bad, but what about my stuff? I can
see him now, jumping in the car, slinging water everywhere and ruining my
stuff, I said, my frustration growing.
Your stuff? the voice quietly reflected. Why such a preoccupation with the material? He was already soaked to the bone. What about him?
Silence filled my nice clean car. Me and my stuff arrived at work intact
and dry. I went about my day, but I couldnt get my neighbor or the voice out
of my head. No doubt he finally caught his bus and rode dripping wet to
work. Just one of those things, I guess.
But, I know I made a mistake. Sadly, it is not such an unusual mistake for
me. My stuff gets in the way frequently. All too often I cant do what I
should do, what deep down inside I want to do because of all the stuff Ive
worked so hard to drag into my life. This stuff hinders me, distracts me
and burdens me all the time. So why do I cling to it so tenaciously? Does
it provide me a weird illusion of security? Does it define me in terms of
status, success, effectiveness? Is it a strange, material source of denial
keeping me from embracing and understanding my humanity and my connection to
every other person in this city? A thousand questions like these flooded my
mind. I know one thing for sure: I would have enjoyed a much better day had
I picked the guy up!
But, something else is clear as well. I missed out on meeting a neighbor.
Basically, I traded a chance encounter with another person for a seat full
of junk and a moment of ease and convenience. Bad trade. I hope I wont be
so foolish next time. Like I said, I made a bad choice last week.