Right of Way

There’s a little town next door to ours that lays claim to “the highest per capita income” in the state. Now I’m not really sure of that statistic–I can think of a few other places with just as few “shoddy” neighborhoods and just as many chic inhabitants–but that’s what they believe of themselves to some extent.

We like visiting the downtown area because there are cute shops and wide, tree-lined walks with lots of street-side dining. It’s a relaxing place to spend an afternoon or get an ice cream after dinner.

One aspect I am less impressed with though, is the driving. Twice in one day I drove through a particular intersection that I’ve learned to watch very carefully. It’s a 4-way stop, but you’d never know it.

There seems to be a “law of the land” that supercedes state driving regulations and somehow authorizes the person with the fanciest vehicle to barely stop (if at all) and cut off the more lowly driver. (Guess which car I was in?!) Ironically, the car I was driving is the nicest we’ve ever had; but when put up against the Land Rovers and Mercedes, we don’t measure up.

The sense of entitlement reminds me of an encounter I had a few years ago.

I hardly noticed the man as hubs and I walked to a table in the cafe at our favorite bookstore. He stood at the back of the line, perusing the overhead menu before placing his order. I recognized him as a familiar homeless man–many of the homeless have adopted this bookstore as their new daytime hangout. Coffee is cheap, refills free and you can curl up in a comfortable chair and read all day without anyone really bothering you.

After a few minutes, I got up to take my place in line to order. The shabbily dressed, unkempt, slight man was still at the back of the line. As I approached to take my place behind him, he turned to me as though expecting me to go first. He had been standing there quite a long time, so I indicated that he should go ahead of me.

The look of surprise on the man’s face startled me. I realized that he must be used to people generally looking past him as though he isn’t really there, cutting him off, preventing him from taking a place in line–or a place in society–that the rest of us take for granted.

It brought tears to my eyes to realize how often we diminish the value of other people because they aren’t dressed as nicely as we are, or they don’t speak the language as well as we do, or they pay for their coffee with money they’ve collected by recycling soda cans.

Dear Abby once said, “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Now, I’ll admit that I do struggle in situations like the intersection when I know I have “the right of way,” but I hope that I don’t create my own entitlement situations where I decide that I get to “go first” because I fancy myself somehow more important.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Phillipians 3:2

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.