My parents used to complain about their long, hot walks to school in the Texas sun. My daughter is lucky. I drive her to school in a 2006 van.
But here’s the catch. I use a rental company van supplied to me for use with my hospital van pool. And on the side of this van, there is a giant mural logo of a flying van.
My constant joke when we’re running late is we might have to deploy those wings.
That was the case last week when we raced out the door with barely enough time for everyone to raise their tray tables and seats to the upright position before being cleared for take-off.
We sped down the boulevard with no time for the in-flight movie.
On the final approach, about one mile out, we hit some unexpected turbulence.
“Dad!” my daughter screamed. “You just ran over a cat!”
“Didn’t you see that white spot in the middle of the road?” she blithered.
“No I didn’t!” They say denial is the first stage of grief.
During the next 15 seconds, I asked myself scores of questions. It was the kind split-second reasoning that reaches unaware into your soul.
I’d always imagined I’d stop if I ran over a pet and try to find the owner. So why was I still driving? Five seconds passed. What kind of schmuck was I? Why hadn’t I turned around?
I looked for a safe place, but there seemed to be none. Ten seconds passed.
No, I couldn’t’ stop. There were three nurses waiting for me to drive them to work.
Was there a number I should call?
All the while I was asking myself these questions, we were moving farther from the scene and the likelihood that I could be any help to this cat.
It felt like my ethics were on a timer “Tick, tock. Does he stop?” It felt like I was sweating the final “Jeopardy” question.
If I didn’t stop, I was sure people would report my calculated callousness.
Tick tock. I hated the questions I was asking myself. I hated who I was being — or not being.
I signaled my intention to do a U-turn.
“Dad? What are you doing?”
“What for? That cat was dead long before you hit it.”
“Really?” I asked with some relief that I wasn’t the cause of death.
“Yup,” she said, nose upturned, “road kill.”
What did I do?
I continued to school and work with a certain amount of pride that I hadn’t caused the death of this pet. True, it wasn’t a real pride, but it has its parallel in life.
Often we live life with some warped paraphrase of the Hippocratic Oath. Instead of saying, “First, do no harm,” we live as if “do no harm” is our only rule.
But as I discovered in my encounter with a roadside carcass, there is no honor in simply being able to say, “I caused no one’s demise today,” or to say, “I stepped on no one to get to where I am.”
The honor is not to say, I took no life, but the honor is to say I gave my life. I gave it to help someone, stand up for someone who had been run over, and make another person greater than myself. Or as Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”