Be the One Who Stops

Recently I was driving on a blustery morning through squinted eyes and a pollen heavy headache. Colors were intermittently pastel and vivid, light springing in and out of blossom shadows. Traffic came to a halt in front of me. Eventually someone honked and peeled out into the left lane. Others followed.

As I inched forward, I came upon a strange tableau: A dead raccoon with a white handkerchief around its tail, and a slouching older gentleman in a shirt and belted khaki trousers pacing the sidewalk. I pulled over and stopped in front of his vehicle, which had its emergency flashers on.

“Are you OK?” I shouted.

Yes. He had spied the critter and stopped to move it out of traffic so it wouldn’t get run over, post-mortem.

“It’s a little fox!” he exclaimed. “A little fox with rings on his tail.”

(It wasn’t. But OK.)

He continued his homily on the fox-raccoon.

“I hate seeing animals run over! People should have some respect. God created three things--trees, animals, and people. Everything else is man-made! We should have respect for what God made. I’m not religious or anything. My father was Catholic. He was a saint. But I don’t go to church or anything. I just have respect for nature. I was just out feeding the little ducklings this morning!”

Something sprung up from my heart. Something sad and sweet.

This man's devoted ritual was as sacred as the passing of the wafer and wine. Tears came to my eyes.

“Well, that’s really nice of you to do that.” I managed.

Despite the hurry I may get in from time to time, thank you dear sir, for reminding me to be the one who stops.

“To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson