I learned a lesson on the way to work yesterday. I live in a small rural town and drive a two lane highway for much of my commute. At the edge of town I noticed a large lump in the road before me. As I approached I realized the lump was actually a very large crusty old turtle. This was before 8:00 am and there was a lot of traffic for a little town. What to do? I stopped my car, put on my flashers and decided to be the guardian of Mr. Turtle as he made his way across the road. The cars lining up behind me surely did not appreciate my act of gallantry. I was feeling pretty smug about my good deed and sat in my car watching him cross the road at a pace in keeping with his species. As he finally made it to the center double yellow line, Mr. Turtle decided to go all in. That is, he literally went inside himself. He tucked his claws, his spiny tail and horny beaked head inside and became immobile. Clearly he was overly confident that his armored shell would protect him on his journey.
Now what was I to do? I was dressed up for work and he was quite filthy. I wasn’t really confident that his beak wouldn’t reach out and snip off my fingers if I were brave enough to actually get out of my car and pick him up. Now the cars behind me are honking. Peer pressure was at its worst – and I succumbed. I turned my emergency flashers off and drove off, leaving Mr. Turtle perched on the double yellow line. I prayed that someone braver than I would come along.
I like turtles well enough. I am not a big fan of any reptile but I let fear and squeamishness overrule my heart. I drove the half hour into my office and I thought of Mr. Turtle several times throughout the day. I felt so very guilty. Mine was a sin of omission. I had an opportunity to help a creature and I just didn’t do it. I could have helped him cross that busy road. I could have washed my hands.
That evening I returned home well after dark via a different road. At that point I had forgotten about my little friend. The next morning as I approached the same patch of road it all came back to me. As I headed up over the hill I had visions of blood smeared concrete, shattered bits of shell – or worse, an actual carcass. My heart was pounding and I was afraid to look.
The clean road that lay before me was a beautiful sight. I smiled and said a prayer of thanks to that anonymous soul who either stopped traffic or actually got out of their vehicle and stewarded the creature across the pavement.
The lesson I learned is that the price we pay for missed opportunities is far higher than the risk of taking action. Take the time to help someone (or something) in need, make a connection with others or just show up when you say you will. Do it. You don’t want to visit the Land of Missed Opportunity – the price of admission is very high.