A 15 minute drive has turned into 30. Traffic backed up on the freeway forces me into the city streets, which are just as backed up. At every traffic light I wait for two, three, four cycles. It’s barely three o’clock! How can it be such a mess already?
Driving into central Phoenix in the late afternoon is never a good idea. But there’s something I’ve got to do.
The whole time all I can think is, I’m going to be late. I can’t be late! Followed by a second thought, now I’ll be facing more rush hour traffic on the way home.
It’s annoying and I know I’m thinking selfishly.
There’s lots more to be worried about in the world, but here I am, trapped near downtown. Bound and determined to finish the sad errand that has brought me from my pleasant suburban life into this sun-baked, shabby inner-city. On the way home I’ll be forced to meander through decrepit neighborhoods hemmed in by freeways and the airport. Old parts of the city that once rang with promise and now often ring with gunfire. Mid-century, low-rise apartment blocks with green space and basketball courts, once so bustling and hopeful on the edge of a rising city, now in shambles and walled off, populated with vagrants or worse. I glimpse broken swingsets and busted up cars, snapshots of life sliding into oblivion.
Beyond the depressing facade, I know life goes on. There are families here, living full, happy lives. They struggle each day to make a home, to care for their loved ones, to make ends meet, and to stay safe. I know there are hopes and dreams here. They just look different from mine. They don’t let rotten circumstances and tough breaks oppress them the way I’ve allowed my self-pity about the traffic get me down.
I should feel ashamed. I do. Maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself because I’m stuck fighting traffic and just I want to go home, which makes me feel worse, because at least I have a home and family to welcome me.
I think of my errand, the kid I’d come to see and how he smiled when he saw me. I think of his grandparents and uncles who surrounded him with love. I think of his strength in standing up bravely before all those people without tears or anger. I’m such a jerk to feel so overwhelmed by my circumstances when this kid could smile at my meager effort on the day his mother is laid to rest.
I know I’m only human, but thinking about that kid, jeez! How can I complain?
Really, how can I?