The Choice We Face

Or The Night of My Hit-and-Run

I had just left my friends’ house after spending a lovely evening talking about our past pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We laughed over things that had aged from uncomfortable or scary to funny, as travel memories often do. We agreed our tattoos were our favorite souvenirs ever (a future post to come on that story). And we repeated again our awe that we had the opportunity to pray in the locations where world history had changed forever.

It was 8:30 almost on the dot, and I approached a red light at a T in the road. As I slowed, I saw a car turning left off the main road, heading straight towards me. I could tell she was turning too sharp, and then, almost in a dream, realized she wasn’t just turning too close to me - she was turning into my lane, headed straight for me. I started to honk, a millisecond before realizing she was turning too fast to correct. She hit me head on.

As the airbags deployed, I somehow had enough sense to look at the car and the driver, trying to note as much as I could about both amidst the shock. I don’t know why I did so; I never dreamed that she would do what she did next: Keep driving.

My hand burned, covered in a dark gray powder from the airbags. Everything smelled. A hint of smoke was in the car, whether from my engine or the airbags. And she was gone.

It would sound better to dramatically say, “I sat there in shock,” but I didn’t. A call to the friends I had just left to tell them in a shaky voice what had just happened and a call to 911 left little time dwell on the reality before me.

Until I got out of the car. The busted front bumper. The fluid running all over the road. My hand burning and hurting. And she was gone.

A girl in an SUV stopped - Melissa - and parked behind me with her flashers, promising to stay with me until the police came. My friends, Irene and Leo, arrived. My car sat sadly at the light, as if it was poised to turn left and go home. But it wasn’t.

I could list the things that went wrong that night. I could rail against someone who fled the scene of a head-on collision, not knowing if I was hurt - or even alive. I could complain that there were no tow-trucks available and that I got disconnected after being on hold for a long time, or that the police didn’t show up immediately. 

We are faced with a choice. We can see everything that has gone badly, the wrong that’s been done to us, how we’ve been mistreated, and how life has been utterly unfair. 

Or we can see that even when standing on the side of a dark road, my mangled (just paid off!) car blinking forlornly in a puddle of its own radiator fluid reminding me of a mistake that was not (for once) mine… I was there with friends. 

She was gone, but car after car after car stopped to see if I needed help. A former firefighter pulled over and asked if anyone needed a ride anywhere. Several people, hearing the story, turned back around to try to find the offending sedan. When the police arrived (delayed because they were handling a much more serious situation), they were kind and gentle. My friend Leo was able to drive my sad car back to his house and then lent me a car - so I could spend the night in my own bed and deal with tow trucks and rental cars the following day. The rain held off until we wrapped everything up, sprinkles falling just as we were leaving. Little gifts - but ones that aren’t so little when you’re standing in a dark road, seemingly alone with a fresh load of problems you hadn’t foreseen ten minutes earlier.

I wasn’t alone. I had wonderful friends. There was a community of people who wanted to help. And I had a killer guardian angel. Because the greatest gift of all was that I got out of that car and walked to the side of that road on my own.

As the police were finishing their report and giving me the information I needed, a solitary man walked down the sidewalk towards us. I will never know what had transpired in those fifty minutes since the accident, but now I stood back as he told the police that his daughter had been driving the car. She had been texting. She was old enough to know better. Reason after reason kept hitting my heart, giving me ample justification for anger.

Once again, I was faced with a choice. There were several reasons to be angry. I had every right to unleash my emotions. But what would that do for him? 

When he walked over to me to apologize for her, I could see the pain in his eyes. I did not know the story of the last fifty minutes, much less the story of the last several years. I didn’t need to. I just needed to forgive.

We can look at most situations two ways. We can hold onto our anger and we can shake our fists at the unfairness of life. We can wonder why everything happens to us, and we can wallow in self-pity. We can question and we can fume and we can complain.

Or we can cultivate gratitude for the graces we didn’t deserve. We can be thankful for the little gifts that aren’t so little. We can smile at a dad who is struggling with a burden we know nothing about, even though that smile is forced. Because I got out of that car by my own power. And I was standing with friends.

The dad walked back down the sidewalk home, this time escorted with police officers, and I eventually returned home, shaken but not stirred. Because I had a lot to be thankful for, despite it all. And I could raise my fists and say, “Why?” … or I could raise a glass and say, “Thanks.”

Today I wrap up an eight-part series over on YouTube looking at each episode of Season One of The Chosen. It’s the first multi-season show about the life of Christ. Like many Catholics and other Christians weary of cheesy-Jesus-movies, I approached it with great trepidation last spring. I’ve since seen the first season eight times, and each time I come away with something new to take to prayer. And that, ladies and gentleman, is my idea of a successful Jesus-project.

While my series was intended to be watched live, and therefore has a relaxed conversational feel to it (I probably do things like lose my train of thought or itch my nose), you can see all the archived episodes on my YouTube channel or catch the last conversation live today at 4:30ET/3:30CT. And while you’re there, please subscribe to my channel, if only to boost my pride. It’s hard to walk away from a YouTube channel that had 3.62K subscribers to start from scratch…

Lastly, while I’m begging you to do things like subscribe to YouTube channels, I’ll also throw out my Patreon page here as well. I didn’t just walk way from a YouTube channel, but also a salary, pension, 403(b), health insurance… all that good stuff. While I believe it was the right choice, right choices don’t pay for hand x-rays or lunch. I have a lot of great projects and wonderful opportunities lined up, but for those to really see the light of day, I need help. (Or at least lunch.)

I have several tiers available through Patreon, and many of them give you exclusive access to discussions I’ll be leading every month on Scripture or Church documents. Our first study will be Sunday, May 30 (my feast day!), and it’s up to my VIP patrons to decide what we’re going to be discussing. If you liked 3MT, just think of this as 3+++MT… live!

Thanks for your prayers and support! As I’m giving God gratitude for the gifts of this week, I’m adding you all to the long list.