It’s Columbus Day. The time when all of us come together, with apologies to Thomas L. Friedman, and rejoice in the fact the world is not flat. If that reference seems out of place Google it. And while I’m chasing rabbits when did “google” become a verb? Now I feel the need to apologize to Dr. Susan Hagan, my college writing instructor. Guess I wasn’t that great a student, Dr. Hagan. Sorry.
Anyhoo, on this Columbus Day I found myself driving to work. Yes, even though it’s a National Holiday and I’m a banker, I did go to work. On the drive the traffic ahead slowed to a crawl (wait for it!) and I wondered if there had been an accident. A middle aged woman stood in the median several cars ahead of me. Perhaps she had car trouble. I eased into to the next lane and as I passed I saw her holding something about the size of a dinner plate. Then I realized the plate had legs and a head poking outside its shell. She held a large turtle (Get it? Crawl? Turtle? There it is.) that had obviously been trying to cross the road. It was probably headed to a Columbus Day Sale at the nearby mall.
The turtle gently peddled its legs, crawling in mid-air the way a dog does when you hold it over the water. As I passed, I watched in my rear view mirror and saw her transport the little guy into safe patch far into the grass away from traffic. If turtles could sigh or say thank you I’m sure he would have done so as he found “shell-ter” (Couldn’t resist.) from the traffic. A younger Jim might have been irritated about how this woman had chosen to act out this drama. After all, people have places to be. We have to get to the mall for the sales. But I found myself strangely grateful for the woman’s kindness.
Now I’m not a PETA guy. I eat meat. Chicken. Pork. Beef. I’ve even had Snapper Soup. (It’s not fish, guys.) Heck, I even hunt from time to time. But in a busy world this woman obviously saw the safety of this one little turtle as a priority. Even though, as far as I know, this world has an adequate supply of turtles. At least here in Alabama we do. I’m certain of that. But imagine how the turtle might have felt, if in fact turtles have feelings. (I’m guessing Donatello, Rafael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo do. Again, Google it.) My suspicion is he would have felt gratitude and relief. And I suspect the woman felt all the better for having saved him. Good Karma!
So what’s the existential value of saving one single turtle? Not much maybe in the scheme of things, but to that single turtle it would have meant a lot. The woman wasn’t too busy. She didn’t mind risking looking foolish in the face of other traveler’s impatience. She got her hands dirty, probably, in her small act of heroism. Somehow there seems to be a lesson in what I witnessed. Slow down. Be mindful. Just because something isn’t important to me doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Be kind to turtles and other slow moving creatures.
No. I’m not a tree hugger. But trees are important. Trees being both a metaphor here as well as, well, trees. The next time I see a turtle crossing the road, I hope I will remember the little drama I witnessed today. (Again, it’s a metaphor!) And if you see my brake lights maybe you will get to witness one just like I did today.