The other day my family and I were in our car, stopped at an intersection not more than a half mile from our home. It's an odd intersection, in which three directions have stop signs and a third has a blinking yellow caution light. There was quite a bit of on coming traffic that day so we were stopped as we waited for it to clear, just minding our own business.
After a few cars went by, a man in a pickup truck pulled into the intersection, apparently not aware that the on-coming traffic did not have to stop. As he pulled is truck recklessly into the intersection a little Honda plowed into, and slightly under, the offending vehicle. The truck in turn bounced into the air and struck our car. Our family is ok, as were the other drivers. Had we been moved up about a foot so more, or I if I had taken my foot off the break when the accident happened, I would not be ok. As it is our front driver-side fender was demolished and our car is totaled. We're not at fault. We were stopped, just minding our own business and getting ready for our trip.
The rest of the day I kept coming back to that idea, we were just “minding our own business.” In our culture, we seem to have come to the belief if we are “minding our own business” then the screwy things which go in in our world shouldn't affect us. If We're minding our own business, other people should mind their own business and leave us out of it.
Our close-encounter with a pickup truck this week reveals how much of a falsehood this attitude is. We do not live on personal islands. Rather, we live in relation with the world around us – with our neighbors, environment, family, friends, and unknown fellow citizens. What affects them has an impact on us, whether we are “minding our own business” or not. People's lives leak into our own, and that can be a good thing. Actually, much of the time it should be a good thing – it gives us an opportunity to learn and grow in love.
So when we hear, for example, of people being hounded because of the color of their skin we have a choice to make. We can say, “I'm just minding my own business, it doesn't involve me.” Or we can say, “This is wrong, and we can't let this be.”
The first response allows us to pretend that we aren't actually interconnected. If something doesn't directly impact us then it can't be such a big deal. We can live in this willful state for a long time. Until, that is, a proverbial truck gets knocked into our lives and shatters our illusions.
The second response requires us to become uncomfortably aware of our interconnected reality. Along this path we deliberately shatter our illusions so that we might see the “other” as part of a larger whole to which we are connected.
I'd much rather live in a world when most people make the second choice. I'd rather live in a world where wisdom and justice are tempered with empathy and compassion because people have walked away from the illusionary shield of “minding my own business.” As a Christian, after all, I thank Jesus every day he didn't believe that “minding his own business” was an option when he went to the Cross.