Worry Is a Useless Emotion
Calling Things into Existence
“Lord, don’t let that child run across the road right now.” I prayed this silently while watching the two small boys making that fateful decision.Sitting at the stop sign that had interrupted a long stretch of open highway, I watched the five-year-old step back from the pavement, though his older brother braved the first lane of empty highway.
My words from yesterday's conversation with Helen rang in my memory: " I don't think I could stand it if I hit a child." I'd spoken in response to her story about her mother's recent accident that had sent a young boy to the hospital. At 22, and, literally, just approaching a life of independence, I saw the safety of the older boy as he made it to the other side of the highway that I was about to enter as akey to maintaining that independence. Ah, he made it. I could now proceed into my life. This thought reassured me as I moved across the intersection closer to my new career and freedom.
Step 1: Drive to Chesterfield, SC and find an apartment. That’s what I had been thinking about when I saw the two young boys about to cross the highway in front of me.Probably, at the moment of my relief, the five-year-old made his move. In his uncomplicated mind, if his brother could make it across before my oncoming Cutlass arrived, so could he. And off he ran.
I saw him dart and I immediately pounded my brakes. In an instant, the car careened 180 degrees out of control and a soft thud at the rear end signaled contact with something. "Lord, let it not be the child," I prayed.
As though in a dream, I held on as the car zipped down the embankment of a small ditch and back up to the asphalt, facing in the opposite direction. With knees so shaky I had to take my shiny, new, wedge-heeled shoes off in order to stand, I got out of the car to confirm what had happened.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
A small group had gathered on the roadside, huddled around the tiny form of the five-year-old whose shrieks pierced the air and my heart. He stood amid the group with tears flowing, his mother checking him for blood and misplaced bones. Though he was in one piece, and I moved on more stable legs, both he and I inhabited some altered, surreal state...but not the same one. I was in total confusion: What to do? What to say? Who to call? How to call? How long to wait? What information to leave? Where was I? Who were all these people to the little boy? Why were they here in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road looking to me for answers?
After a little while, the boy's cries dwindled down to a soft sob, here and there, and sniffles just strong enough to heave his chest. But he was alive, and, seemingly, well.
Though someone had called the police or an ambulance, neither arrived quickly. The boy’s mother assured me that her son was ok. She and others said it was ok for me to leave. Though hesitant, I shakily wrote my insurance and contact information on a scrap of paper, and walked slowly back to the Cutlass, its deep, dark green now matching the inner workings of my frazzled brain. I had hit a child with my car and was driving away. That didn't seem right. But the group had given me permission. His mother had given me permission.
A driver involved in an accident can not leave the scene of that accident until a policeman investigates, writes a report and decides the next course of action. In my law-abiding world before the accident, I had known that. But now I was in surreal-land. I did not know a thing. I did not call my parents; I did not tell the people whose house I was visiting about the accident. I just acted as though nothing had happened. Denial. Or shock, perhaps?
Late that night, when the phone rang, Mrs.Fowler smilingly handed the receiver to me.
The surprise on my face was obvious. Who would call me there? Yes, I'd left BJ’s parents’ number with my parents in case of emergency, but why would THEY call? Denial to the second degree.
What had my dad said? “The police had called … Leaving the scene of an accident … Lost license…
Possible jail… A meeting at the police station in Newton Grove on Monday.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!
As I lay in bed contemplating my dad’s words, sleep would not come. My brain played every scenario possible of my coming days. Monday: Meet with the police. White man in my face! License snatched from my hand. Glares mocking my guilt.
Switch brain to neutral; Don't think about it.
New Job problems: Ok, I'd have to find a place near my new school so I could ride my bike to work. What about the winter? Oh, God... I don't know. Won't people wonder why I'm not driving? So, what? They don't know me. Maybe the judge will grant me a work license. Better thoughts; breathe in.
Argument against Dad's warnings: That can't be true; I left my contact info. They can't charge me with leaving the scene of an accident. Maybe. Small town. White policeman: the south. Anything. Stop thinking. Breathe out.
Monday comes too slowly.
Don't Worry; Be Happy
The tiny police station consisted of two tinier offices. My dad and I could barely fit with the Police officer who stared sternly at me from behind his desk. After scolding me for leaving my address, including my zip code, but not leaving my telephone number (which he wrongly assumed we had), he asked me a few questions: How fast was I going? (I had just been stopped at a stop sign, so, below the speed limit, I'm sure). What was the speed limit (probably 45 since there were houses around). Describe what happened (the little boy and his brother had both started across the highway, but the five- year-old decided against it. Then suddenly, he changed his mind and dashed out in front of me. I braked as soon as I saw them). Why did you leave the scene? (the boy was fine; everyone there said I should leave). He scolded me again, told me the child’s foot was broken, that I should have stayed until the authorities came. Then he sent me home.
I couldn't believe it; He sent me home! No charges! No lost license! No riding my bike
to work in the winter. I was free to go. Thirty minutes of conversation, and I was free to go.
Though relief was my primary emotion, once I was breathing fresh air again, my brain
was spinning wildly. I needed to process all that had happened. I needed to make
meaning out of the past three days, but I couldn't. I had spent three frantic days worried about the consequences of my thoughtless actions, only to have received a mild scolding and a reminder of the traffic laws.
After a day or so back at home, often bouncing from thought to thought concerning the accident, I tried to go about my normal activities. One day, as I was putting newly purchased groceries in the trunk of my car, a voice that seemed to come both from myself and from nowhere whispered, " Things have a way of working themselves out. Worry is a useless emotion."
“No shit,” I said aloud to the nothingness… or All-ness, glad no one was around to question my sanity. In that moment, I did not think to be grateful for the outcome or the lesson. I was a little angry, though I didn’t know at what or whom. I was even more confused; how could I have been that worried and then NOTHING.
Eventually I stored the lesson in my psyche: “Things have a way of working themselves out. Worry is a useless emotion. “ Since then, that knowledge has served me well. It eased me into the meaning of the Bible verse from Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” That knowledge changed my anger to joy and my confusion to faith.
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