Number Our Days
When I was around four-years old, I was struck by a car in the street in front of my house in Hazel Park, Michigan.
It was a warm summer day. My mom and aunt were sitting in a parked vehicle across the street from our house. As I pranced out of the house, down our front steps, across the sidewalk, toward their car, both began waving at me. I mistakenly thought they were gesturing “Hello”. I ran to them. Through the rolled-up windows they were desperately trying to tell me “No! Stop!”
Praise the Lord, I am here today to tell about it!
I don’t remember screeching tires. I do clearly recollect popping up immediately from the concrete, and being—excuse the coarse language—really pissed! Not at the driver, per se, but just at the fact I got knocked over. (I think I pre-imagined Gru, here in this clip from the movie “Despicable Me”, talking about me.)
Why the anger? I’m feisty. And prideful. That passionate and determined four-year-old took great offense at being hit by a car. Thank God the driver saw me in time to spare my life!
It may sound odd, but I think that little Shawn was embarrassed about being hit by a car. Maybe I thought I knew better than to run across the street without looking. Maybe I thought I looked foolish getting hit by a car?! (A short aside, when I was in seventh grade, I was eliminated from the spelling bee because I was embarrassed to spell a “swear word” and so left the final “s” off of “embarrass”. A tad ironic.)
CHILDISH PRIDE & STUBBORNESS
One evening as a young girl, I was very angry at my mom for disciplining me, so I refused her kisses at bedtime. I knew that it was her habit to kiss me goodnight hours later before she went to bed. When she came back to kiss a sleeping me, she found I had scrawled out a note for her using inventive spelling and taped it to my headboard: “U betr not kis me.”
“Of course,” says Mom, “I kissed you anyway. Then I tucked your note away in one of my letters for you to see when you were an adult.”
At age eight, I threatened to run away from home when she wouldn’t allow me to play with a friend. She told me that if I ran away she would be very sad and cry. She said she would ask the police to help her look for me.
I couldn’t comprehend why she would try to find me if I didn’t want to live with her. If you’ve ever read “Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown, this story embodies my wise mother’s approach.
My loving mother never employed reverse psychology. She always endeavored to tell the truth. At age 10, I argued that, clearly she had mistakenly given me a boy’s name. Instead of manipulating, she explained that she liked the name she and my dad had given me and that when I turned 18 and had the money, I could go to court and have it changed.
Obviously, I never made it to court. “Shawn” kinda grew on me. In fact, thanks Mom! I think it suits me much better than “Sheila”, the runner-up name you had for me.
I survived a car hitting me but my three-year-old cousin Connie did not. She was hit on a residential Hazel Park street, one mile away 13 years earlier. It was a devastating loss for my Aunt Dee and Uncle Don and triggered some life-long mental health issues for another family member.
Every day is a gift. I believed it before, but since losing my dear father to brain cancer eight years ago, this truth has become an intensely felt reality. Not one of us knows what tomorrow will bring. The seemingly healthy and innocent die just as the apparently wicked and sick.
Ten weeks after my dad died, I was driving in white-out conditions, when my mini-van hydroplaned on slush and I lost control, resulting in a roll-over accident at high speed on Highway 131 in West Michigan. Miraculously, my mother, daughter and I walked away relatively unscathed. I know how terribly different it could have turned out.
Many of us tend to live with a nonchalance, that tomorrow will be much the same as today. But this is not an accurate assessment.
Rabbi Loren Jacobs, of Congregation Shema Yisrael, states: “We need to adopt the attitude that we are frail creatures whose lives are temporary, whose lives are completely dependent on the will of God…None of us know what will happen tomorrow. To speak as if we do is arrogant and evil. We are to approach the future with a humble, God-fearing attitude, understanding that our lives are in God’s hands, and subject to sudden and significant change.”
The title of his message says it all, “Be Aware Of And Reject Normalcy Bias”.
As James, the brother of Messiah instructs, we ought to say, with humility and gentle confidence, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
And, as we are faced with the mundane or monumental, small or big opportunities, we should reverently and soberly embrace this reality as Mordecai reminded his niece Hadassah/Queen Esther:
“…who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Chag Purim Sameach! May we be strong, courageous and teachable with a heart of wisdom.
A little holiday video-clip for all you asparagus-loving children-at-heart: