I was briefly inconvenienced the other day when the two lanes of the Wantagh Parkway were merged into one because of roadwork. As we slowly passed the work zone I was curious as to what work was being done. The workers were removing the weeds that were growing in the cracks along the concrete barriers.
I’ve been driving Long Island’s parkways for decades and I never noticed whether there were weeds or not. Now I notice. I must admit that I would never expect weeds to be there. After all, could you imagine a more inhospitable place for any plant to grow? These weeds were flourishing in concrete that has been baking in the hot sun during the summer months. But there they were, lining the parkway.
If it wasn’t for the slow-down, I doubt I would have paid any attention to highway weeds and I see a parallel to our lives in this experience. We’ve probably all heard the saying, “Slow down and take time to smell the roses.” This encourages us not to rush around without appreciating the daily blessings of our lives. It seems that our children grow up in the blink of an eye and it’s good to slow down and appreciate them at each stage of their lives. It’s beneficial to value our spouses, our parents, our friends while we still have them.
Slowing down also gives us a chance to see the weeds. It’s easier to notice the weeds in other people’s lives: gruffness, rude attitudes, petty talk, negative criticisms, poor judgment, etc. But we sometimes can’t see how “weeds” have been growing in the cracks of our lives. This is not because we’re bad people, but because we’re traveling through our days at such speed that the pressures and anxieties of our lives allow the less-than-lovely aspects of our personalities to grow unchecked.
Just as the road crews needed time to remove the highway weeds, it’s good for us to slow down, take an assessment of where we come across as impatient and crabby, intolerant and prejudicial, unkind and selfish. These are not the qualities we wish to be remembered for, and a gentle self-evaluation can help us to choose some different ways of responding to people in our lives.
I regularly am involved in funerals where I speak with family members about the personality of the deceased. While many speak about generosity, sense of humor, kindness, and love, every once in a while the deceased is remembered more for less than loving behaviors. They never took the time to weed.
Slow down. Today is a new day to assess the weeds and roses of our lives.