He was helping her out of the ditch when I slowed my bike to a stop on the Ladiga Trail. She righted her bicycle, brushed herself off and explained with one word, “squirrel.” I nodded my understanding. My friend Rene once spent some time on crutches with a cast on her ankle for the same reason. When those bushy tailed rodents stop in the middle of the lane and do their little shimmy dance, why do we swerve? People can not out-reflex squirrels.
My father taught high school driver education in addition to many other hats he wore during 30 years with the Birmingham City Schools, and he used to quiz me about driving situations. The one I always got right was probably the most useful too. Question: “What if something is in your lane and you don’t have time to stop?” Answer: “Hit it.” Dad was convinced that swerving while driving a car could make any accident more serious and he wanted to train my first thought to be “Hit it.” The rule came in handy when a ladder fell off the truck in front of me while driving on I-20 in heavy traffic, and also when assorted wildlife darted in front of my vehicle over the years. Swerving can cause a lot of trouble, and frankly, it almost never saves the deer either.
We can’t always weigh every option when faced with a quick decision regarding an obstacle in our path. But what about the things in life that are more important than bicycles, ankles, cars or deer? How do we know when to take a stand and when to keep the peace? I’ve always been a big fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was one of the first Christians to stand up to Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer became so frustrated by the lack of action among his fellow clergy that he became involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. As it turns out, good Christians do not always make good assassins and evil dictators have a much higher success rate when it comes to killing off their opponents. I’m not an advocate of assassination in general, but you have to admit Bonhoeffer decided not to swerve.
WWJD? Jesus seemed to have an inordinate amount of patience with some people and a very short fuse with others. He compared respected teachers to whitewashed tombs --- pristine outside but dead inside. He invited outcasts to eat and chat. He was no stranger to verbal barbs nor to words of compassion that surpassed anything the world had ever seen. And of course there was that incident in the temple with the overturned tables.
So how to know? Maybe when I feel like telling someone off I should show love, and when I feel like melting into the woodwork I should speak out. Courage is an interesting virtue… one you may not know you have (or don’t have) until faced with a dictator or a table that needs to be overturned.