Marolt: What the world needs now is perspective, sweet perspective
The following story is only funny because everything turned out all right. Nonetheless I will change some particulars in case any of those involved might still be sensitive.
It happened a long time ago. A friend and I were having lunch. Since it was before smartphones conquered us, we needed something else to divert our attentions from each other, and so we both had a copy of the local newspaper in front of us to keep us from inadvertently making eye contact or accidentally saying something meaningful, revealing or important and starting a conversation that neither had energy for.
“Oh, my gosh,” my friend exclaimed. There was a picture on the front page of a horrible-looking traffic accident involving a medium-size SUV and a gigantic bus. The bus’s bumper hung by a bolt. The SUV would soon be hanging from a giant magnet suspended by a crane at the junkyard. You think I meant to say “salvage yard,” but that’s not the case. What was left would only be making rust in the ensuing years.
There was not much to speculate about the driver, either. The caption gave her name and age. She had been airlifted to a Denver hospital trauma unit in critical condition. This is a good place to remind you that everything turned out fine.
I also need to add another important detail before I forge ahead. My friend hadn’t had a date in a very long time. I know it sounds like an odd place to insert a fact like this, but if you have the patience of a 4-year-old at a wedding Mass, you will be rewarded by hanging with me.
“I can’t believe it,” my friend continued. “Unbelievable!”
I agreed. “What a shame.”
“I was supposed to have a date with her tonight!” he continued. “Just my luck.”
It’s easy enough to chuckle, and I can shake my head and laugh with the most righteous until I examine my reaction to things going on around me.
I hear of another beheading by ISIS, and it turns my stomach. I sit quietly for a moment and say a silent prayer for the victim, his family and the evil perpetrators. Then I bring a sandwich back to the office that is frosted with mayo when I specifically asked for it without. In a moment my mind is clear of atrocities against humankind, and I sit sulking, angry that I have to remove the entire top slice of bread and choke down an otherwise perfectly delicious roast beef sandwich, one picked piece at a time, careful to extract the lettuce that might be contaminated with the dreaded white goo.
And, yes, it may be true that no other person is my equal in self-absorption when it comes to pulling foods from the horn of plenty, but how many parents have worried about their children’s self-esteem when it comes to a second-grade soccer game or a part in the elementary school play?
Heaven forbid they don’t get to play much, end up losing or don’t get a starting role. Call the coach! Call the drama teacher! But whatever you do, don’t give a second thought to the one team that must lose or the majority of children who don’t get to play first string or get to say more than a couple of lines in the production.
I’m speaking from experience here, not a pulpit. I live in this mode so often that it makes me wonder if I have any compassion whatsoever for my fellow human beings. The fear of this has made me search everything from my soul to the cracks between sofa cushions to find whatever change I might.
I am happy to report that, in fact, I’m pretty sure I do give a darn about you. I really do care! I’m pretty sure it is not empathy I lack. Rather than being short on compassion, I think the real problem is I may be long on me.
While my heart can ache momentarily for distant suffering, I can move through it knowing the immeasurable grace of God and strength of the human spirit. It is exactly these things I forget when I let my own life turn from placid waters to sandy bog. It’s called perspective. Surprisingly, it’s actually that, rather than empathy, that allows me to see we are all in the same boat rowing in the same direction. Everything is going to be alright for me, too!
Roger Marolt is starting to understand that he is just another idiot driver in the traffic jam of life. Email email@example.com.
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A six mile cross-country ski race brought 168 skiers to the trails between Snowmass and Buttermilk in 1971.