Driving into work in the pre-eight o’clock hour, I was stopped waiting for the split-second light to change for two lane traffic to dart across a busy thoroughfare. The light, apparently, had a slight defect on timing which made for the passage of two, maybe three cars to zip through with a trailing line of cars and vans anxiously waiting to go, only to inch just a smidgen closer to the light. People were developing nervous twitches, hand gestures accompanied with unintelligible mouthing of words, or the engine-revving technique to let others know just how impatient they really were. Calmly, I sat in my car, trying to patiently await my turn since I knew that I was unable to alter the timer on the traffic light to suit my haste.
On the side of the road was a retired man with probably no where special to go. His physique reminded me of the bulbs that were bulging out of the ground now at the onset of autumn, reprimanding me that I had to extract, thin and transplant them in the next few weeks ..or else! His spindly legs and knobby knees grew to an expanding, rotund belly that probably saw more beer or ale than was healthy for him in front of…hmm, I’d guess… a Sunday football game on television. Khaki shorts to the knee bloomed to accommodate potentially larger legs, but the waistband couldn’t stretch any farther. A ribbed white cotton sleeveless t-shirt clung to his belly expansion. Clumps of grey-white hair stretched in different directions atop his head. He may have been bored with his wife’s kitchen-table discourse and dish-washing, so he stepped outside to patrol his property line.
I carefully watched him meander to the median area of grass that potentially belonged to public domain after the sidewalk at the end of his private front yard grass line. He seemed to take no notice of the long line of cars waiting anxiously at the defective traffic light. His mission focused on safeguarding his tract of worth, however contained it may have been.
As so often an eyesore on streets, one crumpled piece of paper and one empty plastic cup that may have held a condiment from one of many nearby fast-food restaurants littered the sidewalk right in front of his real estate holding.
With a swish of his right foot, he gave an instep-kick to each piece of litter, careening them into the street and out of the zone of issue. It made me stop for a moment and reflect on how often this kind of immediacy becomes the knee-jerk solution for a number of our problems.
How much more effort would it have taken to actually pick up the refuse and dispose of it properly in a trash can or recycle bin? How much more efficient would such a solution be instead of just literally kicking the same problem down the road? Yes, it would have been a bit more of an effort to stoop and pick up the two pieces of litter, but the problem would have been correctly resolved and “finito”. Instead, the mindset becomes that if a problem can be eliminated from my sphere of influence, it is no longer my problem. Not true! It is still an unresolved problem for someone else, potentially, depending on the next person who encounters it, a problem that can increase instead of decrease or be totally resolved correctly.
Does this mean that we have to accept and take on other people’s problems? Not necessarily. It does mean, however, that we need to be able to see when a problem does exist, address that problem consciously and if it is within our power, resolve it to the best of our abilities. Passing a problem on to another and thinking that it is over if it is out of our sight may be commonplace, but it is anything but insignificant and final. It is the reason that we need to address issues and our role, however minuscule it might seem, to do our part, do what’s right and not pass the problem on to another to resolve. Think about how, if everyone did just a little part, the overwhelming problems that govern much of our lives and the dialogue that surrounds us, would be at minimal manageable.