This morning, as I pulled off the freeway on my way to work, I breathed a sigh of relief. The streets were slippery from the heavy rain, my view of the road was a blur of water and windshield wipers, and I was just grateful to have avoided any accidents.
At the end of the exit ramp, a disabled veteran was standing on the corner, in nothing but a thin jacket that barely covered his head, silently getting soaked as he held up a sagging cardboard sign and begged, with each glance at the passing cars, for spare change. One by one, I watched the cars in front of me roll past him without acknowledgment.
When it was my turn, I rolled down my window and slowed down just long enough to hand him some cash, hoping he could use it to go somewhere warm and dry. The driver behind me leaned on his horn, then a car behind him joined in on the honking.
“God bless you,” the man said, as his fingers brushed mine, but his words were drowned out by a voice on a loudspeaker, shouting at me to move along.
I looked over to see a cop car sitting at the stoplight on the street that I was turning onto. He was addressing me from the speaker system in his car (the one that is normally used to direct people when they are pulled over).
As I made my way to the office, I felt shaken to my core. Not because I got “in trouble” but because that particular cop, in that particular moment, thought that was the best action to take. Not getting this poor man somewhere safe or dry, but yelling at me for pausing to help.
Yes, I may have slowed a few cars behind me down, but instead of taking that extra 10 seconds to send a thought of peace or blessing to that man on the corner or to pull out some spare change themselves, they chose to honk at me instead.
Forget about “high” or “low.” That cop and those honking cars behind me were only focused on the road. Literally. Not on what truly mattered in that moment. Not on the vulnerable human being standing in front of them, getting drenched in the downpour.
Now, I know that it was just one little moment on one rather gloomy day, but it reminded me just how much the actions that we choose to take in each and every moment matter. They all add up to something bigger. They create the very world we live in.
If we want to live in a better, kinder, more loving world, we simply have to make better, kinder, more loving choices. Not necessarily bigger choices. Sometimes the smallest actions mean the most. Sometimes all it takes is one second, one glance, one passing smile. It all matters. It all counts.