Recently, I was trying to make a right turn but was blocked by the car ahead of me. That car would be going straight but was blocked by a traffic jam on the other side of the intersection, and the traffic jam was caused by a passing train. Since trains move kind of slowly through downtown Suffolk, this was probably going to take a while. If the driver would just move up about a foot, I could get by. But my presence, as my left headlight got closer and closer the other car’s right taillight, wasn’t enough to motivate the driver to budge.

I sat fuming for a while. There was a car behind me also signaling for a right. Then I stopped fuming. I got out. I walked over to the driver’s door, and politely asked her if she could give me about a foot. She did. As I passed I gave a little “thank you” wave, and she waved back.

When I told my wife about it, we started talking about how afraid people are to talk to each other. It’s not without cause. My wife remembered a Dear Abby letter, written by a woman who regretted pushing her husband to confront a group of loud teenagers. One of the teenagers shot and killed him.

Bad things happen, but I think the chances of getting shot because you decided to speak up to a stranger are pretty low. Compare that to the actions of people who take real risks in service to others. We say we honor our heroes for their sacrifices to make our country better. How can we truly honor them, besides talking and slapping stickers on our cars? I think we can honor them by assuming a little bit of risk ourselves in order to make our community a little more friendly. I’m not suggesting we all go out and confront everyone about everything. I’m not about to do so myself. I’m just going to do a little less fuming and a little more engaging.

It’s important to be polite. Spreading anger won’t help much.

Our fear, or aversion, to engage each other is feeding a cycle of fear and mistrust, and those occasions where we’re forced to confront each other will become more and more unpleasant. If we make an effort to increase our involvement with the people around us, our country will be a better place. It’s a small risk to take, but it’s worth it.

3 thoughts on “Engaging

  1. Great post. Great idea and something I’ve been wrangling with lately. You know us. We tend, as a family–or couple–tend to be outspoken and bit rough around the edges. But for some reason it’s acceptable for Mark and not acceptable for me. Which pisses me off!
    So, on to the subject of engaging…people assume that you won’t engage. I think this is part of the reason why we keep finding our neighbors in with our livestock. Apart from being stupid and presumptive, they also assume that no one will say anything and are surprised when someone comes out and asks what they’re up to.
    We haven’t been shot at but we have been insulted a few times because obviously, if we’re not in the pasture 24/7, we aren’t taking proper care of the animals.

    1. I read you post earlier and was thinking about it. In you case, it seems like engaging didn’t work.

      What? You keep your animals in a pasture? Outside???

  2. Right?
    I know I’m big and scary, so I try really hard to be non-threatening and soft spoken when I confront these people. Argh.
    Anyway, good for you. Next time I’m stuck at that light I’ll get out, too ;)
    PS-I think you need to ask for money for this goat. You’re never getting it back.

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