The other day I was driving back to the office from visiting someone in the hospital, and I admit that I was a bit distracted. I was in the right lane of a very busy street that dead-ends into another very busy street. My lane had a right turn signal, and when it turned green I pulled forward to make a legal turn. As I said, I wasn’t being particularly attentive, so I was just doing what the light told me to do. I nearly had a heart attack when, there in the crosswalk, a woman pushed her baby stroller right in front of my bumper.
I stopped easily, but not without taking a couple of years off my life and not before she turned around, flipped me off, and called me a couple of choice names. I was chagrined because I had been inattentive, but, fortunately, no one was hurt. It wasn’t until I had gone a couple of blocks that I realized that this mother, in her athletic gear pushing a very expensive jogging stroller, had endangered her child by pushing the baby though the crosswalk when the signal clearly had said she was supposed to stop. She was angry at me that I didn’t see her and give her the right-of-way.
Now, I understand that pedestrians have the right-of-way, but it was her sense of entitlement and her willingness to gamble her baby’s life on it that I found deeply disturbing. This incident occurred just a couple blocks from the church I pastor, which is located in a mostly white, upper-middle class neighborhood. Few of our members are drawn from the neighborhood, but it doesn’t mean that any of us are immune to what seems is rapidly becoming an American epidemic of entitlement.
Diminishing compassion, empathy, and civility are endangering our ability to live together as community. Of course, none of us believe we act as if we are entitled. We can see it in how others act, or drive, or treat people, or talk, but the last place we’ll see it is in the mirror. Will you humor me? Will you pretend with me that you and I both are guilty, so we will work for the rest of the day on recognizing and resisting it? YOU take the trash out. YOU empty the dishwasher. YOU hold the door. YOU let the other driver go first. YOU make the coffee at the office. YOU refill the toilet paper. YOU … or maybe you really aren’t entitled.
Rev. Michael Piazza