March 7, 2016
Sometimes, life hits us in the gut, slamming us with hard choices. We must decide how to respond, choose our course of action despite the push and crash. Will we do the right thing or will we run, cowards when faced with our own crimes?
My eldest daughter is a young woman of twenty-one largely sensible years. On Super Bowl Sunday, she watched the commercials (certainly not the game since she’s not a football fan) at her boyfriend’s house. She promised to be home by eleven, but a less-than-sensible aspect of her composition includes a blatant lack of time management. After the evening news ended at eleven-thirty, my husband climbed into a warm bath and I nestled into my corner of the couch, comfy in my jammies, to catch up on the world of social media.
A sickening sound outside made my insides jumble. I leapt from the sofa and threw open the front door. Cold blasted through my insubstantial robe. I blinked, blinded by a blue light from a truck located on the road outside my house. A little white car was slammed into a tree at the top of my driveway. I struggled to recognize the make and model, praying it wasn’t my kid’s vehicle. Another car sped down the hill away from the scene. I ran to the bathroom and slapped my palm against its door. “Honey, I need you to get out now.” I didn’t wait for a response. Instead, I slipped on tennis shoes before I ran outside and up the hill, first aid kit in hand.
Long chestnut hair shone in the truck’s headlight. The tea and biscuit I’d just consumed threatened a retreat. I recognized my girl. Tears raced into my hair as I cursed my slow legs. Upon reaching the top of the drive, I embraced her, checking her for obvious injuries. She shook with cold and reaction, but I saw no obvious injuries. She babbled and sobbed like a baby, and I smoothed her hair. The driver of the blue-lighted truck explained, “I was coming up the hill. I slowed because I saw her turn signal. The car behind her didn’t stop. It hit her into the tree, slowed until I turned on my light, and then sped down the hill. Probably a drunk driver or driving without a license.”
I clutched her tighter. “He didn’t even stop to see if she was okay? He could have killed her.”
My husband limped in his dress shoes up the hill, wet hair framing his flushed face. Damp from the bath, a pair of red shorts clung to his thighs as he yelled directions into his phone. After a confusion of police, we took an ambulance trip to the hospital. Feisty and filled with indignation, my stubborn gal balked at donning the hospital gown and groused at the examination. Remarkably, our girl had escaped major injury. Pain pills, a week of missed work, and further doctor visits. Although a news crew aired a brief segment about the accident, police searches never found the culprit.
However, the driver is out there, guilty of a crime. Hit and run. My daughter lived, but if the tree hadn’t stopped her car, she’d have plummeted over the hill twenty feet. The airbag deployed, and the car is being junked. We’ve dealing with the “cleanup.” Meanwhile, the guilty party hides, hunkered away from the scrutiny of the police, anonymous as a proverbial thief in the night. “Thief in the night” is an excellent title for the hit-and-run driver, because he stole trust and damaged property, costing more than money.
However, somehow I hope the import of the event seeps into the driver’s conscience.
Doing the right thing is not easy. If we hide long enough, the police give up their search. With effort, the evidence of the accident is corrected, and some minds can push aside circumstances, lock away their culpability in a recess of the mind. I hope somehow the guilt creeps from its prison and seizes the driver. Guilt should knock in the engine like a tell-tale heart beneath floorboards. Every time a hit-and-run driver turns a key, a vivid recollection of “the experience” should haunt them. Guilt serves a purpose. It is a guide.
In the future, if not now, I hope the driver will have grown enough to know better, to drive safer, to do the right thing. Indeed, I hope we’ll all possess the strength of character to own our mistakes and always do the right thing.
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