I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer...the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people.
But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.
- Michelle Obama at the 2012 DNCThis has been a creepy day, reminding me of the movie "Urbania". It started when I was driving from St. Columba's to a Catholic Church in Tacoma for my first meeting with a potential spiritual director. It was raining a fair amount, and as I got past the exit for 320th, I saw right off to the side of a freeway something burning. There were several large road vehicles in front of the area with caution lights on, and people were slowing down. As we approached and I looked down at whatever was burning, I couldn't quite make it out, but then gradually, but in a hazy blur, realized that it was a jacknifed big rig, probably carrying oil, that was lying in a culvert down off the road after having crashed through the guard rail.
I immediately remembered what Christopher told me a few days ago about people being mesmerized by work vehicle and/or police lights on the side of the freeway and driving straight into the vehicles because of it, so I wondered if this were the case. Since I was driving by very quickly, I didn't immediately see any fire trucks around, so I wondered if the accident had just happened and was a consequence of the truck driver being confused by the road work, or if the large trucks with caution signs on them were parked there because of the wreck . . . I drove on.
Just a few minutes earlier this evening, on the way home from St. Columba's, I saw what looked like smoke rising from somewhere behind many trees just to the west of Valley Medical Center. I again thought that there might be a fire, and I was so distracted in looking at it that I remained in a right hand turn only lane and at the very least caused a great deal of confusion on a slick, wet, very dark, steep road at night trying to figure out what was happening. I did try to turn around on a side street to get a better look at the area, but it was dark and very wet, and I couldn't see where I needed to see.
I decided in that moment that yes, it was, in fact, too dangerous for me to try to stop to help - that I myself may be hurt or cause an accident when attempting to to investigate this by being a traffic hazard or driving erratically in already difficult conditions. So I kept going, perhaps rationalizing the decision, thinking that the flames that I thought I saw were actually amber lights around the building, that someone else in a tall hospital surely would have seen a large fire burning, that what I thought was smoke certainly could be some kind of HVAC system steam . . . I drove on.
Then, as I pulled up to the intersection of Carr Road and Highway 515, I noticed that a car had stopped in the middle of the turning lane about 20 feet before the stop bar at the intersection and had his hazard lights on. (I was in the leftmost lane.) In front of him was a laundry-basket load full of junk that was strewn all across the turning lane. He was out there picking it up. I sat in my car and wondered again if I should jump out to help, also turning on my hazard lights. I thought if I did, I would help everything go more quickly. But then two lanes would be blocked instead of one . . . so, I drove on.
Three times today, I decided to stay in my car and go on with whatever needed doing instead of getting more involved. Were those the right choices, or did I just rationalize my selfishness and hurry? In the first incident, I was moving too quickly to be able to stop, and I felt it too dangerous to try to call 911 while driving. Was I like the priest and the Levite who crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
Looking at it from the perspective of what I should have done given the data I had in those moments, I'm not sure if any of those decisions were morally right or otherwise correct decisions.
But the I do know the outcomes in all three cases.. In the first case, I heard that the truck fire started at about 2 a.m. and was being actively monitored since then. Tonight, I could find no reports of the Valley Medical Center having any kind of fire beside them. The man who stopped to clean up the mess seemed to be almost done cleaning the mess by the time my light turned green.
In hindsight, I think the decisions I made were the right ones - but one never has hindsight in the moment. As Michelle Obama said in her speech, we only have values, intuition, and past experience to guide us.
I've written this before on here, but it's apparently time to write it again: I pray that God would give me the wisdom to know what decisions are right in the most difficult of circumstances and then give me the courage to make them.