The Wisdom of Hesitation
by Jim Shaver
West Virginia, USA
On a cross-country journey in the summer of 2009, I stopped at a rural New Mexico freeway rest area. I noticed an elderly gentleman with a small dog climb into his pickup truck and leave. Moments later an elderly woman approached the parking space with a confused expression. I asked if she was looking for the man in the white pickup.
She confirmed and I explained I’d watched him drive onto the highway. It was her husband; she asked to use my cell phone. When she dialed his number his phone rang in her purse; she was unable to call him.
For nearly an hour, I and several truck drivers patiently waited with her. Quite a crowd gathered. At times, she appeared angry and frustrated, other times more confused and worried. Finally, a truck driver and wife escorted her to their rig for coffee, while he used his CB to notify other drivers to be on the lookout.
Then I saw the white truck pull back into the same parking spot. A frantic elderly man jumped out. I let him know where his wife was. I let his wife know her husband had returned.
They both hurriedly approached each other from across the lot until only a few steps apart. Suddenly, they both stopped and just looked at each other. The standoff lasted several seconds, neither uttering a word.
Then the man began to weep. He ran to her arms and sobbed uncontrollably. After several attempts of his unintelligible attempts at speech, she gently took her husband’s cheeks into her hands, forcing him to look into her eyes.
Over and over she said, “It’s OK.” I looked around through my blurring eyes to see numerous tears flowing in the nearby crowd.
After a few moments of tears and hugging, he regained enough composure to explain he’d realized his error within seconds of merging onto the highway. However, there was no safe place to turn around on the divided highway until the next exit, 12 miles away. Needing to backtrack again, he’d driven 48 miles to return.
The wife is the real hero in this story. When the couple both first saw each other, she had every right to unleash her anger for being forgotten. She had every right to chastise, and belittle until her heart was content. Most people would have vented anger on first seeing the perpetrator.
But at that moment, even though she had every “right” to lash out, she hesitated. By delaying her tirade, she transformed a situation of anger and bitterness into one of unforgettable mercy and kindness. Even though only observers, those of us who witnessed this event were graced by her demonstration of forgiveness and genuine love.
To this day, whenever I feel slighted and ready to lash out, I think of this experience and hesitate. Just because I have every right to be angry, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice.