Monday, October 28, 2013

On Sharks and People

Image courtesy of paulabflat

One man sat at a stop light. The woman in front of him was going through papers on the seat of her car, and when the light changed to green she didn't go. A green light is not a suggestion, you know, it is more of a commandment. But she didn't notice.

When the light turned red again, she still had not moved. The man in the car behind her now started screaming epithets and beating on his steering wheel.

A policeman tapped on his windshield. "You can't arrest me for hollering in my car," the man said. The cop asked for his license and registration, returned to his car, talked on the radio for a while and finally handed the papers back. The driver protested, "I knew you couldn't cite me for yelling in my own car!"

The officer replied, "I didn't want to cite you for shouting in your car. But I was behind you at the light and saw you screaming and beating your steering wheel. I said to myself, 'That guy is out of control. He's going to hurt someone.' Then I noticed your 'Love Is a Choice' and 'Give Peace a Chance' bumper stickers and I was sure you stole the car."

What the signs on his vehicle said about him and the way he actually behaved looked like, well, two different people. But let's not be too critical. Are we always the people we want to be? I believe in love and justice, forgiveness and second chances and generosity – but I don't always live up to the ideals I profess. 

It helps me to think of sharks. We're told that some kinds of sharks can't breathe unless they swim. They get oxygen from the movement of the sea over their gills and they can only make this happen by constantly moving through the water. In other words, they must keep moving forward to live.

Likewise, humans who want to live well must also keep moving forward. Forward toward the people we want to be. Forward toward our goals and ideals. Change is almost always incremental – a little bit each day. But we must keep moving forward.

As author Marianne Williamson says, “There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” But I find great passion in stretching a little farther than I think I can. I hang on to the belief that it is better to reach too far and fall short than to settle for mediocrity and succeed.

Yes, I don't always give peace a chance and I don't always choose love first. And more often than I care to admit, the person I am today doesn't wholly resemble the one I hope to be tomorrow. But all of that is all right, so long as I keep moving forward, little by little, every day.

Life demands that sharks and people keep moving forward.

-- Steve Goodier

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