Last week I spent a couple hours on I64, traveling east, then a couple more back home.
And I noticed something both alarming and depressing—the roadways seem heavily populated with bullies.
Sometimes, a car suddenly appeared behind me, almost close enough to drive right on up into the back of my jeep.It was at this point I felt unequivocally bullied. There was menace in their maneuver. At the earliest possible moment, they would go around, at a frightening proximity; both next to me, and when they pulled in front.
In addition to feeling like I’d just been roughed up for my lunch money, I felt an absolute disregard for, and denial of, my humanity. I was not only in their way and deserved rebuke, I was less than. On my way home, this attitude struck me even more forcibly. You see, I was returning home after a day with Sam Jones, proprietor of Skylight Inn and owner of Sam Jones Barbecue.
To look at Sam, you might make a few assumptions. And, they may go something like this: he’s a rich, famous restaurateur who comes from the most famous and important family in town. He’s got a fancy new restaurant, and nobody’s ever said no to him, and nothing bad’s ever happened.
Heck, in 2003 the Skylight Inn won a James Beard award for “American Classics”. This award thrust him firmly into the realm of celebrity chefs.
Two years later, Sam was working in the family restaurant, a respected volunteer in the Ayden fire department, and talking marriage with Ashley, a fellow Ayden resident, and his girlfriend of six years.
In their hometown, they were well-known and well-liked, the prom king and queen of Ayden. Their future was bright and glorious, just like the rest of their charmed lives.One day the couple was traveling in Sam’s truck. He pulled into an intersection. And that was the last thing he remembered until he found himself crawling on the road, looking for Ashley. There had been a collision, ejecting both from the vehicle.
She was under the front of the truck. She wasn’t pinned, but Sam knew it was bad. He found his hand-held radio and called in the accident. When rescue arrived, he wouldn’t allow them to transport him until Ashley had been loaded into the ambulance. With paramedics furiously attending her, the truck left, and finally Sam was taken so that his own, not insignificant injuries could be tended to.
Ashley didn’t make it.
Within six months of this nightmare, both grandparents, constant, daily presences in his life, passed away. Sam was left in a dark, dark tunnel and it seemed, some days, that he would never emerge. And many days, didn’t want to.Today, Jones is married with two young children. He’s also become chief of that volunteer fire department. He loves what he does and gives back every chance he gets. He’s smart, funny, cooks amazing Q, and tells a great story.
The point here is that everyone has a story—everyone. Even the famous guy with the exciting life, even the middle-aged lady driving the well-worn jeep with too many bumper stickers. Every.Single.One.
Life is short, often hard, and can change in the blink of an eye. There is no telling in what part of a stranger’s story that we encounter them. It could be the best day of their life or the very, very worst.
So here is my plea. Please, let us all treat each other more gently. Just imagine this world if we all acknowledged our shared journey and are kind to every person we meet.Thanks for your time.