Distracted driving is a not-so-good trait with which I am, unfortunately, afflicted. In response to my human weakness, I have firmly adopted a self-imposed restriction not to “text” while driving, but I do continue to answer my cell. Massachusetts would do well to outlaw cell phone use while driving, if for no other reason, than to protect the public from people like me. Despite my distracted driving tendency, I have not had an accident for a very long time. My last wreck was about 18 years ago, while I was living in New Hartford, New York. It was not my fault.
One summer afternoon, I was driving from the parsonage to the church when, all of a sudden, a car ran a stop sign and smashed into the driver’s side of my car. Thank God, the car slammed into the back seat door or I might have been injured. It was still frightening. I lost control of the car and the air bag deployed. Luckily, the car came to rest without hitting anybody else. As the air bag slowly deflated, I was left sitting in the car shaking and traumatized. Instinctively, I opened the glove compartment to search for my insurance stuff, but somebody knocking on my window and yelling obscenities interrupted me. It was the driver of the other car. Still shaking, I pushed open the car door and exited as the man kept swearing at me.
“What’s your problem?” I asked not too nicely.
“It’s your fault, you (expletive deleted). You ran into me,” he screamed.
I thought he was going to hit me, but a young man who had stopped to render assistance pushed us apart and called the police. Continuing to yell and swear, the other driver moved away and stood on the side of road.
The police and an ambulance arrived within minutes. The ambulance quickly departed the scene when it was apparent that nobody was injured, but the man was still cussing. The officer went over to him and told him politely, but firmly, to shut up and calm down. Then the officer asked, “What happened?”
Before I could say anything, the other driver told the officer his “cuss-filled” version of the accident. When he finished, the policeman completed his notes, turned to me and asked, “REVEREND Holt, could you please tell me what happened from your perspective?” (I rarely use the title REVEREND, but I have to confess that on that day I was delighted to be a little “holier than thou!”)
As the other driver, now silent, turned the whitest shade of pale, I replied, “Sure, Officer Williams.” I proceeded to tell him the TRUTH of what had actually happened.
“Thanks, REVEREND Holt,” Officer Williams, a long time acquaintance of mine, said as he finished recording his notes and proceeded to write the guy a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. The man took his ticket, stomped away and sat in his car to wait for the tow truck, while Officer Williams and I caught up on the latest “happenings” in the village.
My accident story came to mind this week, when I received an e-mail from a boy in our community. Harker asked me a couple of questions, but then concluded the e-mail by writing: “I recently read in one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid installments that you should always be nice to people, because they just might be Jesus in disguise.”
I am not sure if Jesus plans to be in disguise anytime soon, but one of my most cherished and deeply held beliefs is that each one of us has a hint of the Divine One in us. If we can get past what is on the outside and look for the God that resides within each and every one of us, our planet’s relational atmosphere might be transformed from being somewhat cold-hearted into something far more warm-hearted and nice.
“Harker, thanks for the tip. I plan follow your lead.”
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts