Friday, February 26, 2010

Do What You Can

Do What You Can: A parable for our time

This morning on my “joyful” jog around Cambridge, I came upon a blue Toyota waiting at red right turn arrow. A large Mercedes came up behind the Toyota, honked loudly (is there any other way to honk?) and received from the driver of the Toyota a gesture in the direction of the red light. The Mercedes paused and then quickly pulled out of the lane and turned in front of the Toyota. At the same moment the arrow turned green giving all the option to turn right.

The moral order did not shatter. This was no occasion to invoke proletarian conflict. After all, I covet a large Toyota Land Cruiser. No clash of cultures here. The Teutonic Mercedes and Asian Toyota were oblivious of the rising tension.

Here was a parable for our time—too blind, too impatient, too rude to be civil. I am reminded of the mantra of Forrest Church, the late minister of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City. “Be content with what you have. Know who you are. Do what you can.” If we want a more civil society, we can make it happen and it begins at red no turn arrows when impatience grabs hold of us.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute