“The man who threw the rock was ‘remorseful’ and fully cooperative,” said a report from the Sherriff’s office.
I still remember these words from many years ago. I was caught in a horrific-yet-thankful feeling of “that could have been me…”
“Me” being either the man who threw the rock off a cliff or the climber that was instantly killed by the every same rock hurdling to the earth.
Interesting how both men, strangers, set out early that day for the same thing: a mountain adventure. One would scale terrain vertically and the other horizontally. And both had no idea their lives would intersect and change forever. We rarely set out for a day of fun thinking, “and this is the day that will change everything.”
There was little the rock climber could have done to save himself. He did everything right that day. He was living life to the fullest and was well prepared with the best rope, carabiners, harness, and helmet. But when a rock, smaller than a roasting chicken, hits your head—a not even the best helmet makes a difference.
For the climber the change was instant. Not to sound cliché—but he truly never knew what hit him. One minute—game on—the next—game over. And really, that can happen to any of us, at any time. Life is precious and fragile. It can change or be gone in an instant.
But what really haunts me, is the after effects of a single small rock. To be the man who casually tossed a rock over the edge are shoes I do not want to wear. Yet, chances are, we’ve all done it. The difference is that this time it led to tragic results. This rock-thrower lives knowing the effect of one small fraction-of-a-second-impulsive action.
But what about when it’s less physical? What about the invisible rocks? I see them thrown almost daily. And it seems the thrower is clueless of the possible results of their actions.
At Youth Group I hear of kids getting bullied—sticks and stones do more than break bones (and helmets), they break hearts and lives. An angry customer “goes off” on store clerk—she a single mom of a down-syndrome child, this is her second job, she’s worn out. Politicians throw insults and disparaging remarks with practiced finesse, as if that really WAS their job. And voters add fuel to fire with similar political puns—harsh and cutting—to their entire email address book. Or forward something that is false (please, please check snopes.com first). Picketers at the clinic are being ungraceful as a young woman tries to get to her car, she’s in terrible pain. Someone mentions their friend’s need for prayer to a group—it was private—the cat is now out of the bag.
BEaWARE OF ROCKS
Sadly it happens. Some rocks are obvious and intentional. And that’s just wrong. But some are innocent, or simply careless, without any harm intended. It happens. Just like the man who threw the rock, he had no idea. And really the only way to prevent rock throwing is to become aware.
More than 2,350-years ago, the very best advice was given about invisible rocks when Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Kindness is the first line of defense to preventing any invisible rocks escaping our grasp. Consider the worst case scenario results before letting that rock leave your control.
In a fast paced world, where information is instant, lives are rushed, and social media-texts-emails are fired off quickly—the most innocent yet harmful rocks are hurled that can never be retrieved. A great quote comes from the movie Facebook, “The Internet’s not written in pencil…it’s written in ink.” Oh my goodness, I’ve been that person that accidentally “replied to all” or typed the wrong name in the recipient field. You too? And it’s all because we didn’t slow down. Or we accidentally gave information away because we didn’t think it through before typing, or speaking (or yelling, or complaining…or gossiping—sorry if that last one stung). Our hands, mouths, and brains work faster than our hearts that know the right thing to do.
IF IT’S TO BE, IT’S UP TO YOU & ME
I know none of us want to be sitting in a Sherriff’s office having to give a report about the rock we threw. Nor do we want to discover the heartache we caused from invisible rocks we could have controlled. Maybe, overall—we’d be smart to listen to more ancient wisdom from Jesus’ half-brother when he wrote, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)