Sensitivity

As I watched him don his helmet and adjust his backpack, I felt compelled to step outside and share just one more blessing for his safety. No, I wasn’t seeing a soldier off to war. Instead, I was watching my grown son drive off on his motorcycle.

I’m not a fan of motorcycles. Although I’ve always been fascinated by them and, back in “Easy Rider” times, dreamed about heading cross-country on a two-wheeled powerhouse. And I have to admit that I admire the enthusiasm that bike owners exhibit and the obvious care to detail they show to their machines.

I guess I am a fan of the freedom and the exhilaration that would come from riding. At the same time, I have a pretty strong bias against the negative things. You know, things like falling off at high speeds and getting hit by other vehicles. The risk just seems to outweigh the rewards.

But Jeremy feels differently. As an adult, he and hundreds of thousands of bike riders have contemplated all of these things. And they’ve made their choice.

Life causes us to live with choices yet not necessarily accept them — both our own and those of others. If you truly embrace that idea, you discover two polar reactions. Either you’re insensitive to those choices. Or you nurture your capacity for sensitivity.

When you know a choice-maker (or someone like them), the sensitivity reaction seems to heighten. Because of my son’s choice to ride a motorcycle, I approach every intersection with some anxiety. I look twice or three times, just to make sure I haven’t overlooked a rider on his way. And, if my mind is elsewhere and I revert to the quick glance of earlier times, I’m plagued with guilt and dread as I pull into traffic and pray that I haven’t become one of those insensitive drivers who contribute to the high number of injuries and death.

As I pulled through an intersection this morning, I began thinking about how this change in sensitivity had affected me. And I began to think of growing sensitivities I have to many others who have made choices about things in their lives — or who are having to deal with the choices of others.

Life brings experience. Some people get to a level of experience very quickly in life — experiencing poverty, family break-ups, loss of loved ones. The rest of us are introduced to those themes over a longer period of time. Our choice becomes one of sensitivity or insensitivity.

I’m beginning to see life as one big intersection. When I pull up to that stop sign, do I look two or three times to see how my actions will affect others? When I see someone crash, do I pull to the side and assist?

Going about your day, I hope that you’ll spend a little more time at the stop signs, looking out for those who are experiencing difficulty in their lives. If you’re behind me, don’t honk. I’m just looking, too.

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