Epiphany in Jamestown, NY

Last Thursday, on our way back from visiting Steve in Mainesburg, Pennsylvania, we stopped for gas in Jamestown, NY. After filling the car, I pulled forward and got Franco on the leash for a short walk. As we were heading back to the car, I had an encounter that lasted a few seconds, but has been on my mind ever since.

A woman walked out of the gas station and started across the driveway between the station and the pumps. She was holding onto a boy that I guessed was about 5 years old. The boy made a noise that must have caused me to look up. I saw Mom’s stern face looking straight ahead, then heard her say, “Maybe Mom should just let go and let the fucking cars hit you!”

My jaw must have dropped and I think I stared for a while before I dropped my eyes and kept walking to where I was going. No, I didn’t walk up to that woman and slap her.

Here is what I pictured:

When the little boy and his Mom walked out of the gas station, and toward their car, there were sounds, shapes, colors, and smells that were new and interesting. Children, being learning machines, are attracted to new things, and the young fellow may have felt an exuberant itch to explore, except that his Mom was holding on. He cried out, tugged, and licked his lips in anticipation of the adventures awaiting. He was painfully jerked back and scolded by the most important person in his life. What, I wondered, died inside that little developing jewel as a result of that one incident? And how often had that incident been repeated already in his short life? How many times will it be repeated in his future? How many times had his Mom been treated the same way by her parents?

We all encounter jerks in our daily lives. And many of us, myself included, treat them like jerks when they make their personalities known to us. Do they deserve our contempt? Weren’t they likely unwillingly herded down the road they’re walking by parents without the skills or abilities to cultivate that wonderful spark of curiosity? I feel I understand people just a little bit better after that incident, and I hope I treat folks with more compassion as a result.

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