We have all heard the expression: “Remember to stop and smell the roses.” But, how often do we really take time out of our hectic fast paced lives to notice the world around us? Too often we get caught up in our busy schedules, thoughts of our next appointment, the traffic or life in general, to even realize there are other people nearby. I am as guilty as anyone of tuning out the world in this manner, especially when I am driving on California’s overcrowded streets. A short time ago, however, I witnessed an event that showed me how being wrapped up in my own little world has kept me from being fully aware of the bigger world picture around me. I was driving to a business appointment and, as usual, I was planning in my mind what I was going to say. I came to a very busy intersection where the stoplight had just turned red. “All right,” I thought to myself, “I can beat the next light if I race ahead of the pack.”
My mind and car were in auto pilot, ready to go when suddenly my trance was broken by an unforgettable sight. A young couple, both blind, were walking arm-in-arm across this busy intersection with cars whizzing by in every direction. The man was holding the hand of a little boy, while the woman was clutching a baby sling to her chest, obviously carrying a child. Each of them had a white cane extended, searching for clues to navigate them across the intersection.
Initially I was moved. They were overcoming what I felt was one of the most feared handicaps—blindness. “Wouldn’t it be terrible to be blind?” I thought. My thought was quickly interrupted by horror when I saw that the couple was not walking in the crosswalk, but was instead veering diagonally, directly toward the middle of the intersection. Without realizing the danger they were in, they were walking right smack into the path of oncoming cars. I was frightened for them because I didn’t know if the other drivers understood what was happening.
As I watched from the front line of traffic (I had the best seat in the house), I saw a miracle unfold before my eyes. Every car in every direction came to a simultaneous stop. I never heard the screech of brakes or even the peep of a car horn. Nobody even yelled, “Get out of the way!” Everything froze. In that moment, time seemed to stand still for this family. Amazed, I looked at the cars around me to verify that we were all seeing the same thing. I noticed that everyone’s attention was also fixed on the couple. Suddenly the driver to my right reacted. Craning his head out of his car, he yelled, “To your right. To your right!” Other people followed in unison, shouting, “To your right!” Never skipping a beat, the couple adjusted their course as they followed the coaching. Trusting their white canes and the calls from some concerned citizens, they made it to the other side of the road. As they arrived at the curb, one thing struck me—they were still arm-in-arm. I was taken aback by the emotionless expressions on their faces and judged that they had no idea what was really going on around them. Yet I immediately sensed the sighs of relief exhaled by everyone stopped at that intersection. As I glanced into the cars around me, the driver on my right was mouthing the words “Whew, did you see that?!” The driver to the left of me was saying, “I can’t believe it!” I think all of us were deeply moved by what we had just witnessed. Here were human beings stepping outside themselves for a moment to help four people in need.
I have reflected back on this situation many times since it happened and have learned several powerful lessons from it. The first is: “Slow down and smell the roses.” (Something I had rarely done up until then.) Take time to look around and really see what is going on in front of you right now. Do this and you will realize that this moment is all there is, more importantly, this moment is all that you have to make a difference in life.
The second lesson I learned is that the goals we set for ourselves can be attained through faith in ourselves and trust in others, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The blind couple’s goal was simply to get to the other side of the road intact. Their obstacle was eight lines of cars aimed straight at them. Yet, without panic or doubt, they walked forward until they reached their goal. We too can move forward in attaining our goals, putting blinders on to the obstacles that would stand in our way. We just need to trust our intuition and accept the guidance of others who may have greater insight.
Finally, I learned to really appreciate my gift of sight, something I had taken for granted all too often. Can you imagine how different life would be without your eyes? Try to imagine for a moment, walking into a busy intersection without being able to see. How often we forget the simple yet incredible gifts we have in our life. As I drove away from that busy intersection, I did so with more awareness of life and compassion for others than I had arrived there with. Since then I have made the decision to really see life as I go about my daily activities and use my God-given talents to help others less fortunate.
Do yourself a favor as you walk through life: Slow down and take the time to really see. Take a moment to see what is going on around you right now, right where you are. You may be missing something wonderful.