The young man stepped off the curb just as the pickup truck entered the intersection. I honked the horn in my car, hoping to warn one or both about the dire circumstances that seemed imminent. The young man looked up from his phone and stepped backwards to return to the curb. The pickup truck driver flipped his middle finger at me and sped away. I remained stopped at the crosswalk and waited for the pedestrian to get to the other side of the street. The young man waved and smiled as a gesture of gratitude.
That particular intersection has a long history of several vehicle-pedestrian mishaps–two of the accidents were fatal. Signs and flashing yellow warning lights have probably helped prevent many incidents, yet people have gotten injured regardless of the city’s efforts.
A great deal of harm and evil in the world happens as a result of carelessness. People either let their vigilance down, or they are unaware of other people’s needs for safety and wellbeing. I sometimes categorize the lack of empathy as a form of carelessness. Sometimes it seems as if being careless is a result of the lack of empathy. Either way, not caring about others and/or oneself results in unhappiness and sometimes physical danger.
In the case of the young pedestrian, he had allowed himself to be distracted by his mobile phone. Meanwhile, it appeared that the pickup truck driver had either been inattentive or had active disregard for others–as shown by him not slowing or stopping the vehicle and by his rude gesture at the scene of the near accident. I’m glad the pedestrian was able to return to the safety of the curb. I hate to imagine the tragedy that could have ensued.
Have you noticed that many of our woes are caused by a few moments of inattention and carelessness? I recall injuring a finger on my left hand last spring. While scraping dried Bondo putty during a window frame repair on my house, I violated the cardinal rule of moving the sharp edge of the five-in-one tool towards me instead of away from me. I failed to move a stepladder to a better position to allow for safe tool use. My carelessness meant a trip to the emergency medical clinic on the other side of town. The resulting pain and inconvenience hampered everyday life for several days. Thankfully, I’m more careful with sharp tools and knives these days.
During the process of living our lives it is wise and compassionate not to harm other beings. We also need to be alert to the possibility of other beings causing harm to us. This is not to say we should be paranoid. These are primarily precautions to take to enable friendly, successful interactions. Using these precautions helps us to better avoid fraud and deception.
Finally, carelessness manifests in how others perceive us. I know that it’s currently fashionable to proclaim that we should not give a f**k about other people’s opinions of us. To a certain extent this is OK. In other respects, not giving a f**k can be seen as carelessness. Like it or not, people sense our attitudes by our speech and actions. People instinctively sense care and carelessness because this sensitivity is part of our survival mechanism. We know that if someone is careless in deed, they may well be careless in giving us all due respect. Carelessness is rightfully seen as offensive because such a state of mind and disrespect are ultimately harmful.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Mormon religious leader, lawyer, and politician, James E. Faust. “Unfortunately, some of our greatest tribulations are the result of our own foolishness and weakness and occur because of our own carelessness or transgression.”