Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reactions and Responses on a Blue Sky Tuesday


• Scene: Lunch counter. TV above blaring the latest news. An older gentleman takes a stool at the counter. It is probably his first time at this establishment. He wears shirtsleeves and a dark bow-tie. His hair is a simple, grey flat-top and he has old horn-rimmed glasses. He looks as if he belongs in a small-town Southern drug store, accustomed to providing scrip to blue-haired ladies with their aches and pains.
But he sits here with a tight jaw, looking up silently at the TV with a rigid spine, perhaps holding in some ache or pain of his own.
He nonchalantly orders a reuben.

• A few seats down is an unkempt college student furiously working on his second Scotch before one o’clock. His eyes burn at the TV overhead as he swears under his breath at the news. Is he angry because he is drinking, or drinking because he is angry? One might suppose the latter.

• Down the street a husky fireman stands on the corner, a fire engine parked haphazardly behind him. He holds out a galvanized tin bucket as he pleads for donations from the melee of passers-by.

The news is a thousand miles away, but every locale has its reactions.

• Here, a mental reaction: The old man’s silent reserve and hardened focus belie the thoughts churning in his head. Is he a vet perhaps, thinking of the past? Or maybe a grandfather thinking of the future?

• Another reaction -- this one verbal: The student with fire on his tongue. Alas, heated words borne of liquid courage.

• And a third reaction: An emergency professional, again, a thousand miles from the news, doing what he can physically, even monetarily, to alleviate the situation.
A reaction and a response.

At this point, any observer can spout platitudes (”Actions speak louder than words”) or pithy quotes (“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” -- Charles R. Swindoll) that may accurately illustrate the sentiment of an unfolding scene as such.
Instead, may this author offer humble and simple words:
Hats off to the reflexes of mortal men and first responders whose sense of duty transcends the self.