Take Lessons From Tragedy

Tragedy comes in many forms, but in every case, it is based on something profoundly sad, heartbreaking, and usually involves loss.  You know tragedy, right?  You have likely had a tragic event if your life, known someone who has, and if you read or watch the news regularly, you certainly see tragedy on a regular basis.

Tragedy Can Come At Anytime To Anyone

One tragedy has stock in my mind for the last several months.  I’ll say up front that I don’t know anybody involved, but from the moment I saw the initial news reports, I’ve been emotionally touched by the tragic events.

In early September, two parents were in a car together, having had lunch and on their way to pick their children up from school.  Another car came from a side street and there was nearly a collision.  There was some additional aggressive driving which turned into road rage which led to tragedy.  At a stoplight, the father got out of the car to confront the other driver, and as he got to the window of the car, he was shot.

His name was Derek Fleming.  He died instantly.  His wife sat in the car and watched the whole thing happen.  In her account, everything happened so fast that she didn’t even realize her husband was going to get out of the car.  He was there one second, out the next, and gone the next.  What a tragedy.

This was an ordinary day.  Well, maybe not ordinary.  It was the first day of school.  That’s always an exciting day.  But every plan for that day and anything moving forward was instantly shattered.  Dreams.  Plans for dinner, for the next vacation, for the upcoming school year, everything was simply gone.  I can’t even imagine that.

Take Lessons From Tragedy

mb-2014-12glassAs I said already, I don’t know anybody involved here.  But you still have things that ring so true, that you feel like you do.  The man who died was a couple of years older than me.  His kids were a couple of years older than mine.  He got mad at a driver and let the other person know that he was unhappy.

But, he died as a result of that.  That’s tragic, and it taught me a lesson.  It taught me to chill out on the road.

Earlier this summer, on the way to a camping trip, we hit a construction zone.  We pulled off to get gas and were merging back on, where of course traffic was still completely stopped.  I was approaching the lane and it was a point where I needed to get on, and any reasonable person would have probably let me in, except the person that should have didn’t.  He zoomed up and refused to let me in.  The next person did, so I was behind Mr. Jerk and I let him know exactly how I felt about him with a couple of nice horn taps and finger gestures.  He rolled his window down and returned the gesture.

My wife told me to cool it, that you never know what he could do.  I laughed it off saying, “Mr. Tough Guy isn’t going to do anything.”  Still, I didn’t do anything further, and within a minute or two, we hit the last of the barrels, and we were on our way, never to interact again.

That happened a couple of months before the tragic story I just told, but the moment I read about what happened, I went right back to my experience and it chilled me to the bone.

I’m sure that the victim of the shooting thought the same thing.  While I didn’t get out of the car like he did, I’m sure he had the same thought that nothing bad would happen.  Did the thought even cross his mind that he wouldn’t be getting back into his car?  Ever?  No, I’m sure it didn’t.  But, tragically, that’s the way it turned out.

My Lessons Learned From This Tragedy

As I read the story and went back the couple of months to my experience, I vowed that I needed to change.  I didn’t want to be the next victim of a shooting.  Even if the other person was completely a jerk and no matter how right or wrong they were, I thought about how that family no longer had a husband or father because of what had happened.

Since then, I’ve encountered plenty of bad drivers.  I’ve had other people not let me in or had other people do bad things.  In the past, most of the time I would have done nothing but some times, sure I would have given them a honk or a stare or a finger gesture.  Now, I’ve gone to just letting it go.  Every time I move my hand to the horn or to go up in the air, I think of the tragedy that unfolded with people that I didn’t know and never will, and I put my hand back on the steering wheel.

Tragedy sucks.  Every tragedy means that someone’s heart somewhere is broken.  My heart breaks for the wife and children that lost the man that was most important to all of them.  I follow the story, wondering if any answers will come.  If it will ever make sense.  Eventually, there will be a trial as the shooter was charged with murder.  As the details emerge and as verdicts come down, we may find out more, but one thing that will never happen is that the tragedy of that event will never be erased.  It will live with everybody who lost, and it can also live in a different way for anybody that learned and took something away.

Readers, what tragic events have you seen transformed into opportunities or eye-opening moments in some way?  Have you experienced anything of the sort firsthand?  

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3 thoughts on “Take Lessons From Tragedy

  1. Tragedies like these make you realize how important every moment is. You cannot take anything for granted and should use every moment as though it may be your last.

  2. Thanks for sharing that lesson.

    While not a true tragedy, when my boys have a setback or a failure (a tragedy to them) like fail a test or get unfairly accused of something, I usually tell them a story from my past about a similar experience. This way they hopefully learn a life lesson from their experience.

    If nothing else they learn that life is not always fair, but they have to dust themselves off and just keep moving forward.

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