Tag Archives: accident

An Open Letter to Happiness

Dear Happiness,

I used to think of you as a rabbit.

You would appear just a few feet away, nose twitching, ears up. Always at least one eye on me. It was always cool to see you appear, but as soon as I would try to touch you, to feel your fur, you would dart off. Zig-zagging away. Your fluff of a tail waving goodbye.

RabbitEven when I would stumble onto a moment, unplanned, unexpected. You would be gone in a flash. I could never get close enough to catch you. To hold you in my arms. Feel your breathing, or smell your untamed spirit. You were too quick for me, even in my prime.

I know better now. I know that you, Happiness, are not a rabbit.

I know now that I was chasing other people’s expectations. The rabbits are social definitions of you. Rabbits that I can never catch. I’ll never have enough, or be enough, to catch them. It is still cool to see them in my yard. They still appear, nose twitching, eyes looking at me as if to say, “You can catch me this time! Really, you can.”

It’s hard not to give into the urge to chase them. To finally know how their fur feels, to feel that sense of pride after capturing one. But, I am so glad I finally saw you, Happiness.

I’ve heard the best place to hide is in plain sight. Happiness, you did that well. I remember when I discovered you were there, right by the front door. I laughed out loud because you were there every time I chased a rabbit. The day I figured it out, you were a pair of black Nike running shoes. I was headed out to take a walk to deal with the tension in my soul. And there you were, my shoes.

I see you, Happiness, all the time. You are my dress shoes I wear as a teacher, or when I go on a fancy date with my wife. You are the grass stained, worn out shoes in the garage I use to mow in. Once I figured it out, I knew you were there all the time. You were my football cleats. My track shoes. You were the shoes I bought when I started playing slow-pitch softball. You were there on my first day of kindergarten; nice clean shoes for the first day of school.

red shoesI only wish that I figured it out sooner. Even so, thank you Happiness, for being there every day. I understand that you are not a moment to be captured. You are the moments I live. Even in the rough spots, you are there. I found you in the ditch after my first car accident. I wore you as I boarded that Greyhound bus leaving my biological family behind. I was wearing a pair of Nike IDs when my second son was rushed out of the delivery room. I understand that you are there in everything I do, rain or shine.

I may never catch a rabbit, but I know I’ll have a great pair of shoes on when I run. Or even better, I’ll wear them as I sit on the front porch with my family watching the rabbits play.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Life

Decisions in Seconds

I am still amped-up. Less than 30 minutes ago I was almost in a serious accident.

This is a diagram of downtown Hastings, which has a number of one way streets. Second street is a one way street (west to east) downtown. I had to drop off some mail at the post office this morning. I was heading south on Colorado, which is one way also. There is a light at the intersection of Second and Colorado, but it only faces the traffic flow of the one way streets. I was half a block away from the intersection when the light turned green. My lane has a green arrow (Colorado turns into two-way traffic after the light) and I slow down a little to make the turn. The roads are still snow packed from the snow storm on Sunday. That’s when I notice the headlights of a beer truck coming the wrong way on Second street, right where I am supposed to turn.

I wish I could tell you everything slowed down in my mind and I handled the situation like a hero. It didn’t. I remember everything now. But at that moment everything seemed to move into hyper drive.

I could see the truck’s left turn signal blinking on the hood of the truck. I remember thinking in my head, “What is he doing?” because he doesn’t seem to be stopping. There is no traffic light for him because he is traveling the wrong way on the Second street.

Decisions. Choices. Sometimes we see the results of our decisions immediately. Sometimes the effects of our decisions manifest themselves later; maybe a minute, a day, a year, or sometimes never. Making a decision can be a heavy responsibility… in fact every decision we make actually creates the life we live. And most of the time our decisions affects other people’s’ lives. I don’t know when the driver of the truck decided to drive down the wrong way. I don’t know why he chose to do it. Maybe he didn’t want to navigate the extra turns it takes to get through all the one way streets downtown, so he decided to take a short cut. What I do know is that his decisions and my decisions (to drop of the mail and drive down a certain street) was about to meet at the intersection of Second and Colorado.

I decide not to slam on the brakes to try to stop. The intersection was snow packed and helped me in this case. I was able to drift into the right lane on Second street. Missing the truck who also decided not to stop and turned left onto Colorado to drive away. I came to a stop to watch his taillights disappear at the corner of a building.

Decisions. Choices. Some of them seem more important than others. But in reality, every one of them matters. Everyone of them makes an impact in our lives. Makes an impact on other people’s’ lives. This morning I am glad that the driver’s choices and mine did not collide, literally.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Life

Are You Ready?

For all the hours I’ve spent on the road, all the years living in Nebraska and Wyoming, I have never hit a deer or an antelope.  I have had a number of other car accidents, but I’ve always spotted the deer while driving before anything bad could happen. Until this morning…

Right now, it is completely dark for most of my commute.  This morning the moon accompanied me on my drive. I was in between Doniphan and the interstate (as the picture below shows).  Things were going fine, music on, cruise set, and I was checking traffic to decide when to go into the left lane so I could merge onto the interstate.  I just crossed the bridge when the deer appeared.

Image from Google Maps

I was still in the right lane when the deer appeared on the passenger side, just in the fading part of the headlights. Both of us were caught in that eternal second. Because of the light the deer looked like a ghost, faded, almost transparent.  I could see his head snap back and his black eyes widen.  I swear his expression was, “What the….”

I did nothing. Which was the best thing. The deer and I caught up with time. It seemed my car lurched forward to do it, getting ahead of the deer to miss him.  I looked into my review mirror but could not see if he crossed the road or not.

No matter how much we try, we cannot control Life.  We have control of our attitude, or work ethic, and our smile.  But Life, it is like a box of Ping-Pong balls dumped out on a concrete floor.  We will get knocked around, sometimes drastically.  This got me thinking about dictionaries…

As an English teacher I forever get the question, “How do you spell that?”  I would always respond with directions to the bookshelf where the dictionaries sat waiting to be opened.  Even when my students had computers I would get that question.  At a time when answers are sometimes just a click away, why did my students still ask that question?

I think part of the shift we are experiencing, in school and our own lives, must include the ability to react (or know when not to in my case) to Life.  That is a grand statement, but I’m not sure I have had a whole day where something didn’t go wrong.  Where a Ping-Pong ball didn’t knock something off track.  Or a deer run out in front of you.  Are you prepared to react, to adapt?  Are students prepared?

Courtesy of Flickr user Lester Public Library

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Life