Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Walking across a busy street in downtown Toronto, I pass in front of two vehicles stopped at the intersection, side by side. The men in the drivers’ seats are yelling at each other through open windows- angry, swearing, name-calling, accusations of being cut off, of giving the other “the finger.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are, ya, jerk!”
I keep walking. As I get to the other side of the road, I look back. One of the men gets out, runs around the front of his vehicle, and yanks the driver-side door of the other car open. He screams at the man inside to, “Get out and do something about it, big shot!”
Everyone on the sidewalk freezes.
And then, the door to a vehicle behind them opens. A young man gets out and rushes forward. My breath catches. He is young- late twenties or early thirties- the age of my sons. The other two are heavier, older by fifteen years or more. The young man does not hesitate. He throws himself between the two men in front of him. He looks up into the face of the man who is trying to pull the driver of the other car out of his seat. He puts a hand on the bigger man's shoulder.
And all the time he is talking, looking first at one man, then at the other, touching their arms, grasping one of their hands in one of his own. His voice is urgent, fast and confident, but he does not command. He appeals.
"You don’t want to do this. You really don’t. This is not going to work. You don’t really want to hurt someone. You'll regret it if you do. This is not who you want to be. If you take the next step, if you hit each other, it will all get out of control. You don’t want to do this. It won’t work. This is not who you are. This is not what you want. . . "
He never stops talking. The rest of us stand and watch and listen. There is no judgement in his voice, no accusation. There is, beneath his words, some knowledge of regret, an understanding of how good people can behave badly at times, of how things can and sometimes do get wildly out of control and real harm is done. Everyone on the sidewalk is very still. We hear the young man’s words reaching out to the men, asking them to remember who they really are.
The men hear it too. They slow down. They stop. The man who’d gotten out of his car looks around as if slightly baffled about how he got here. He looks at his hands for a moment, and then says, “Okay,” and walks back to his own vehicle.
The light changes. And everyone drives away.
I can hear a collective exhale where I and others stand on the sidewalk. I blink back unexpected tears and whisper, “Wow!”
Beside me, a middle-aged man in a grey suit carrying a leather briefcase speaks.“You can say that again. That young man is one hell of a human being.”
The traffic flows, pedestrians walk on, the city around us buzzes back to life.
And I say a prayer of gratitude for the young man, with each breath offering back a thousand times the blessings he bestowed on the two men in disagreement, on all of us who were there to witness. Oh I know it could have turned out differently, that he was taking a risk of being hurt himself. But he led with his heart- you could hear it in his voice. That’s always risky, but often a choice worth making.
~Oriah House (c) 2015