What Really Matters

Recently I was at a local strip mall when I saw two cars weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds through the parking lot.

For a brief moment, both vehicles disappeared from sight and then one reappeared, driving even faster than before. The second vehicle took chase to catch up with the first, and I stood curiously by as I watched Fast and Furious XXLLCC unfold before me.

I was convinced that nothing good was going to come from this encounter and I posed my cell numbers at 911.

As the first vehicle reached the stop sign to exit the parking lot, the second vehicle pulled up behind. The driver of the second car got out and approached the driver’s door of the first car as it waited on passing traffic.

The night air was thin enough; the second driver’s voice leveled enough that I could hear bits and pieces of the brief directive, though I stood nearly half a block away.

My skin prickled at the sight of the interaction. I was convinced that at any second a gun would be pulled and blood spilled right there before my eyes.

But as I strained to hear the content of the conversation, I became more intrigued and surprised by what I picked up from the spoken words.

And within a minute the second driver walked back to his car and got in the driver’s seat as the first car pulled away from the stop sign and out of sight at a tolerable speed.

The remaining driver turned around his car, parked it in a space before me, and got out to shop at the store outside of where I stood.

He was a tall lanky young black man dressed in a white t-shirt, a pair of jeans and a baseball cap.

And I addressed him.

“Did I just hear you tell that driver to slow down?” I asked, still prickling to appreciate what had actually transpired.

“Yeah,” he answered me shyly and smiled sheepishly.

“Good for you, young man,” I praised him as he further explained his actions.

His reasoning was sound. “What if there had been kids in that car or mine, or if someone was walking to their car? I just needed to tell him that wasn’t cool, the way he was driving.”

I praised the kid again; he thanked me and left me to the evening air and I pondered the entire event.

The neighborhood in which this took place is very highly diverse, teeming with Latinos, Somalis, African-Americans, and Hmong families. Though I did not see the driver of the first car or its passengers, the chances that individuals of one or more of these diverse races occupied the car was a very likely possibility.

To this young black man, it didn’t matter. He didn’t run up to the car screaming, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”, nor did he address race or culture in any way, shape or form.

He addressed a random act of stupidity, the cultivator of which held in this young man’s mind very little importance. He remained blind to who was committing the act, while condemning the act itself.

What he saw were lives in general and the potential of those lives – no matter what color or background – to be adversely affected by a reckless driver.

I wanted to follow him in the store and explain to him how mature and sensible were his actions; that more humans should stand up to ignorance like he did, no matter how insignificant would seem the situation.

I wanted to tell him that I saw him as a credit to his race and that it should be a pillar like him leading with sensibility those so narrow-minded to be convinced that only one race or one culture or one socioeconomic group matters more than all others.

But I thought better of any attempt at cheerleading. Perhaps that was wrong. Perhaps I should have encouraged the young black man to take his strength to where it would do greater good, and that outside of a suburban parking lot.

What I witnessed that night gave me hope that perhaps he will recognize what power his words and beliefs had done and that he will continue on his path for others to witness his handi-capability of blindness to only a small percentage of lives “mattering”.