On a walk one morning, my husband and I came across a deer that had been struck by a vehicle and lay on the side of the road. It was mortally wounded but still alive, terrified and suffering greatly. Having no control over its back legs, it thrashed with the front of its body, trying desperately to get up. It was within a foot or two of the side of Northshore Drive, at a bend in the road, where cars could not see it until they were upon it. We approached a stopped car on the other side of the road, presuming this was the driver that had struck the deer. Compassion overwhelmed me, for the deer and the driver. I was crying by the time I got to his car to make sure he was ok. The driver said he was fine, that he had called the police who was sending out animal control. He had not been the one to strike the deer, but he hated to see it suffering.
“I have a gun,” he said. We all agreed that it would be more humane to put the deer out of its painful misery. “I would have no trouble shooting a rapist or a child molester,” he said. “But I can’t shoot that deer.” He asked if either of us could. We shook our heads, and tears flowed steadily from my eyes. We kept hoping, each time the deer grew still, that it was dead; but its chest continued heaving, and after a few seconds it would thrash about again.
I called the police myself and pleaded that they send someone as soon as possible, that this animal was suffering greatly and could actually make its way back on the road causing a serious threat to motorists on an already dangerous curve. Eventually a policeman on a motorcycle arrived. As he approached the deer, my husband said we needed to leave. “You don’t want to see this,” he said. I knew what he meant, and I let out a few sobs as we walked away.
A friend of mine gave me the nickname the Lorax, because I aim to speak not only for trees but for other creatures, people and organizations who cannot sufficiently speak for themselves. In that moment, staring at the deer, I felt helpless. This suffering creature, into whom God breathed His own breath, was the collateral damage of a world that had invaded his home in the name of “progress.” My own house was part of that invasion.
The speed with which we live our lives, rushing about, multi-tasking, scanning emails, texting … it all has collateral damage. This beautiful creature was collateral damage of our pace and progress. And the driver who hit it just kept on going.
Last week, in drill sergeant style, I provided my daughter with a long verbal to-do list. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” I said, probably too loudly. As she rushed about, I heard her say under her breath, “Geez. What’s the hurry?”
She was right. We had no place to be at that moment. I was rushed because my to-do list is always growing, and I feel constantly rushed to keep up with it. Her to-do list was much shorter; she is not yet a slave to it (yet). I just wanted her to hurry so I could get those items off of my to-do list, so I wouldn’t have to repeat the demands again. If I see the mess cleaned up within the 90 seconds I have to dedicate to it, I can move on down the list.
But what does this hurrying accomplish, and what message does it send to those around us? Do I want my legacy with my daughter to be, “My mom got a lot of stuff done”?
Is there collateral damage in your personal or professional life that has occurred in the name of pace and progress? What is suffering as a result of it?