Our generation is one of being distracted, and I am admittedly guilty as well. While walking recently, I answered a cell phone call, turned my attention to a grave situation over the phone, and overlooked the danger of two young children bicycling. The woman over the phone spoke of her mother’s death, the process of grieving and for no less than five minutes, I was absorbed, at the risk of my own children’s lives.
On the brink of an accident, I finally abandoned the conversation and called out to our younger child. She stopped just in time, as did an approaching car, followed by a patrolling police officer. Although on foot, I was ‘pulled over’ and reprimanded severely by the officer, who took my details, and proceeded to check my record.
Driving and talking on a cell phone in a school zone is illegal in Texas. However, outside of school zones, driving while talking on the phone and/or texting contributes significantly to the rising death tolls (approximately 3,000 on Texas roads in 2013 as of December) and remains legal. I am a staunch supporter of curbing cell phone usage in cars, and yet, I put numerous lives at risk during my recent walk, due to a poor decision: to take what seemed like an urgent call, amidst children’s play. In retrospect, either the call should have been postponed or the children’s play.
As I sat on the side of the road, in a middle class residential neighborhood, the police car lights flashing, I could not help but feel a series of emotions: guilt, humility, but ultimately, gratitude. We had all been spared, unlike so many around us who fall victim to the distraction, which has become all too common.
It began to rain, and my children and I waited. The police officer returned. She scolded me again and she scolded both children. And then, her eyes teared up. “I am a mother, too,” she said. “Do you realize how my heart was beating as I watched you not watching your own children? Do you realize that I always hold my daughter’s hand, even though she is 15, in a parking lot, for fear of her getting hurt?”
“I was wrong. I apologize,” I said, gesturing at the officer, “and to the two of you,” speaking directly to my children. “And I apologize to this community which I put in danger. I assure you, it will not happen again.” Under my breath I quietly uttered ‘inshaAllah’ (God willing).
There was, as there always is, an element of faith: faith that we may learn from our mistakes and not fall victim to our own shortsightedness, and faith that a Merciful Creator will continue to watch over us and protect us. Emerging from our home the next day, our recitation of Ayat Al-Kursi was different (Qur’an, 2:255).1 There was something more real about it, and about our own vulnerability. May this sense of reality and urgency remain with us and keep us focused, always. Ameen.
- Qur’an, 2:255 from Surah al-Baqarah is commonly recited as a prayer to protect. It is translated as follows: “Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.” [↩]