August 2004 Newsletter: Today I


August 2004 Newsletter:

Today I drove past the onramp from 22 East to 33 North.  I remember this particular onramp because of something that happened about a year ago.  I was bringing my daughter Kenney home from Irish-step dancing.  We were driving north on Rt. 33 and getting ready to exit the road and get onto Rt. 22 westbound.   The ramp is one of those situations where you have cars coming off the ramp and out into traffic at the same time as you have cars moving off the main road and onto the exit.

That day, about a year ago, I was trying to get off the road at the same time that someone else was trying to get on the road.  Traffic was heavy and I was boxed in on all sides.  I had my turn signal on, but I don‚Äôt think the merging driver saw it.  All he knew was that I blocking his direct way on to the road.

It was one of the brief encounters that get seared into your memory.  As the driver found that he couldn‚Äôt immediately move onto the road he became filled with rage.  I remember vividly watching his face contort as the anger and violence filled him.  He began to shout at me ‚Äì which was useless of course ‚Äì my windows and his were closed.  He finally raised a single digit in our direction, and red-faced he said a very clear expletive.

Once he had gone his way, and I had gone mine, Kenney asked me about what had happened.  ‚ÄúWhy did that man do that ‚Äì and what did that finger thing mean?‚Äù  I didn‚Äôt have a good answer.  I think I said something about the man having a tough day at work or something.  But I continued to think about it, and I guess I still do since driving by the ramp this morning made me remember the whole event.

What was so disconcerting about it all was that I was dressed in my priestly collar with my young daughter sitting in the car beside me.  Usually people try to control themselves in front of clergy and in front of young children, and when the two are seen together even the more so.  Yet this man was so full of anger at not being able to merge into traffic the way he intended to that he screamed profanities at both of us.  My immediate reaction was an adrenaline rush, probably because on some instinctive level I thought this man was a threat to my daughter, and I had to restrain myself from driving after him to explain to him the error of his behavior.  Perhaps it was the coursing adrenaline in my veins and the length of time it took for me to calm down that has made me remember this so well.

I still see his face.  It‚Äôs because the rage in him came on so quickly and so violently that his whole person distorted right before my eyes.

I wonder if we all that sort of rage and violence hiding deep inside us.

I expect that on some level all of us do ‚Äì but most of us are able to control it better.  Perhaps this man was tired after a long day at the office, perhaps it was a particularly stressful time in his life, perhaps there was some crisis moment that he was experiencing‚Ķ who can say?  I guess I really wonder most of all if he recognized that the rage he felt was completely out of proportion to what was actually happening ‚Äì and realized that he needed to do something about it.

That‚Äôs the point really.  We often find ourselves reacting not to the person in front of us, but to someone or something else that is going on in our lives.  When we are strong and well enough to be able to recognize that our emotional reaction is inappropriate such situations become warning flags for us.  I know that for me, it‚Äôs just such sorts of reactions that make me realize that it‚Äôs time for a break, to get away for a little while, to spend sometime in quiet prayer, to re-center myself with God, to spend some time with Jesus asking for healing.

The reason I‚Äôve not forgotten the man in the other car that day is that I‚Äôve been worried about him for a year.  I don‚Äôt know his name, I don‚Äôt know where he lives but I know that God knows.  And God knows best what the man I met so briefly that day needs.  So I find myself lifting him up ‚Äì rage and all to Jesus.  The man I met that day has become an archetype for me of all those people I meet in my daily life ‚Äì and myself ‚Äì who are so overcome by the grind of daily life that we are beginning to fray.  I pray for all of us, and I remember his face.  And I remember that Jesus loves him more than I can imagine ‚Äì and that as Jesus servant I must try to do so as well.


The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...