Fear and Everyday Courage

This morning, as I drove to my Fellowship, an SUV flew by me in an active school zone going at least 45 MPH.  I watched him pass two more vehicles and pull into a gym parking lot.  I am still replaying the next 60 seconds in my mind.

I debated whether to act upon this opportunity and decided after a couple of seconds of deliberation that it was my duty to do so.  There were no children present and even the crossing guard had left.  But, that is not the point.  What if a child, late for school, had darted across the road?

So, I pulled into the parking lot and behind his vehicle.  As he got out, a large muscular fellow dressed in work out clothes, I rolled down my window and told him calmly that school zone speed limits exist for a reason.  He responded with a string of obscenities and moved threateningly toward me.  He obviously wanted to instigate a physical confrontation and intimidate me. I drove away.

As I came around to exit the parking lot, he stood in front of the car, again calling me names and picking a fight.  I felt I had made the point, drove around him and left.

I hate confrontation.  I guess to be more honest, I fear confrontation.  I suppose most reasonable people do.  That is why bullies are so often successful in getting their way regardless of the consequences or whatever rationale they have for their actions, if any.  Sitting here in the safety and security of my study, I’m not sure how I could have handled those 60 seconds any differently and still lived my principles.

I was afraid this morning. I am still shaking a little as I type this message.  But, if we all stand up to the bullies in our lives, who knows what good can come out of our actions down the road.  I talk and preach about Unitarian Universalism being a religion that emphasizes courage from my pulpit all of the time.  I also preach about nonviolence and peaceful conflict resolution every chance I get.

So, to that nameless driver this morning, I bear you no ill will and hope that whatever caused you to ignore our laws this morning in your haste will resolve itself.  Yes, you succeeded in making me feel afraid.  I left not only out of fear of the physical pain you seemed intent on dealing to me, but because it was apparent that any additional dialogue at that moment would be fruitless.  I can only hope that the next time you drive that road, you hesitate before putting a few seconds of your valuable time ahead of the safety of innocent children.  Staying to confront you further would have only provided you a destructive outlet for your anger.  I hope your gym work out provided a more constructive outlet.

4 thoughts on “Fear and Everyday Courage

  1. A tough call. My first reaction is that this may possibly have been a borderline over-reaction on your part.

    As soon, in my youth, as I found out who I was and became grounded in my identity, I found myself instantaneously reacting foolishly brave to all sorts of unjust actions of others. All I can say is it all worked out over the years and decades that I was able to reach a ripe ol' age without having been maimed. At my current age (less reckless), I probably may have given this guy a pass. OTOH, a senior citizen sometimes is afforded a cloak of invulnerability: no one wants to be seen beating up an old fart. A second reaction I have in these situations (where no harm is actually occurring) is not to readily pose as self-anointed policeman. I have been recently reprimanded by two women for not having my precision-trained and overly-affectionate Doberwoman under what they considered appropriate or 'legal' restraint. I openly ridiculed both of them as being “Republicans”. If these nice ladies were liberals, I may have hurt their feelings. Does that make me a bully?


  2. R.W. – You raise a valid point. I certainly don't approach people at highway rest stops who zoomed by me 20 MPH over the speed limit, or who don't follow the laws on space between vehicles.

    This situation was very different. He didn't just speed through an active school zone, he passed a vehicle in that school zone. The potential victim here is not another driver who can see the oncoming danger and react. The potential victim here is a child, late for school, who perhaps see me, but not the guy passing me.

    So, I didn't then and don't now see this as a situation where no actual harm was occurring. Fortunately, he didn't hit a child. But, creating the situation without some consequence (even if it was just being rebuked by someone he sees as no threat) was not acceptible.

    But, your point is well taken.


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