Hey, Take It Easy…
It’s never too late to slow down
I heard the noise first – the sound of screeching tyres. A car, obviously out of control, was racing straight towards me and my four-year-old son as we stood on the footpath waiting to cross a busy street. There was no time to do anything; it all happened in a millisecond.
The vision of that big black car hitting the footpath a few meters from us will never be erased from my memory. I don’t know how close the car came to us, because I turned away at the last second, but it was close. People stopped their cars and asked if we were OK.
“It didn’t hit us,” I remember saying, as though that weren’t obvious. Then I bent down and hugged my son.
“Mum, that car nearly boomed us,” Scott said brightly, still clutching the cardboard cat he’d made at preschool that morning. He has no idea what a ton of metal going 80 kilometers an hour can do to 18 kilos of a little boy. His worldview is admittedly distorted. Much of it comes from cartoons, especially Spiderman, who he believes can swoop down and fly anyone out of danger.
I found myself walking to the car, which had come to a halt a few meters from a building. A woman in her sixties sat inside, still clutching the steering wheel.
“Are you all right?” I asked. Translation: did you just have a heart attack? Why did you just try to kill me and my little boy?
“Someone cut me off…” she started. Interrupting her in midsentence, I said maybe we’d both better say our prayers that night. The anger didn’t set in until later.
Since that day, I’ve planted over a hundred bulbs in my yard – irises, crocuses, narcissus – those miracles of early spring. “A contact with the future,” a gardener friend calls them.
I have told my husband I love him and have written three overdue thank-you notes. I’ve also done a lot of thinking about the risks we take in life. And the big hurry we are in.
The woman who nearly killed us was in a hurry, no doubt about it. Very likely she was speeding to catch the next traffic light. The driver she said cut her off was probably in a hurry, too, willing to take the risk of turning into traffic.
Nor am I blameless. We had stopped on the footpath because I wanted to shave two minutes off my busy day by running across the street rather than walking half a block to the crossing at the lights. Instead, I nearly shaved off two lifetimes.
I have never been one to take risks lightly. Just a week before, I had returned from a nine-day trip to Japan, flying almost 25,000 kilometers in six different planes. That makes six takeoffs and landings, 12 opportunities to be the top story on the nightly news.
The trip, a gift from a brother in Yokohama, almost didn’t take place. I nearly posted the ticket back because I wasn’t willing to risk a long plane journey.
To think I’d survived 25,000 kilometers of air travel, only to be almost killed three blocks from home. To think my son might have been snatched from this life. To think my husband might have had to deal with two deaths.
Today, I resolve to slow down and think about the spring, the flowers and our children our innocents, our contracts with the future.
At church on the Sunday after the incident, the words of a psalm we sang resonated in my head: “Teach us to know the shortness of our days; may wisdom dwell within our hearts.”
And teach us, Lord, to slow down.