Accidents happen. Do they? The idea that something happens without being a correlation to or cause from something seems shortsighted. While incidents occur without that being the intention it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have predicted, shouldn’t have expected or can recognize in hindsight. When two vehicles collide at an intersection, it is seldom from the intention of one or both of the drivers. It may be because either or both were inattentive or distracted. They didn’t notice or react to road conditions, mechanical safety, or their surroundings. Possibly rules of the road were ignored, disregarded or not applied. As a consequence, the two vehicles, their drivers and any passengers attempted to occupy the same space at the same time and sustained damage to either or both and possibly injury to the passengers and drivers.

In the longer view, the drivers’ mood, health, experience were contributing factors to the crash. An driver in his eighties is moving down a lane in a parking lot when another operator is backing out of a stall. Driver two is in reverse and doesn’t check his surroundings thoroughly before and during the maneuver. The rear of his car contacts the first vehicle on the driver’s side front fender. The ’cause’ seems obvious and the law seems to always assign fault to the car that is backing up. But if the driver of car one was paying closer attention and had quicker reaction times the collision may have been avoided by reducing speed, stopping or steering out of harm’s way. While the ’cause ‘ of the incident can be assigned there are most often numerous associated and mitigating circumstances and conditions.

If I take an action that creates unexpected consequences (I have often), are the consequences really unexpected or did I jump to a conclusion (probably) or not consider enough variables (likely). Was my level of concern not significant? was I feeling upset, sad, confused because of something else that occurred minutes, hours or days before? Am I to be absolved because I didn’t know something I said would hurt your feelings or cause you pain? Am I still involved if I should have known even if I claim that it wasn’t my intention? If I am insensitive and your hyper sensitive one day and I say something or act ‘teasingly’ and you take offense, am I responsible? Even if the same event happened a week ago and you laughed?

My contention isn’t that the vehicles crashed or I caused someone pain intentionally (although that is possible and does happen) but that that there is a complicity that is wide enough to be shared. Every action or inaction, every word or moment of silence, every verb or noun chosen has consequences. I can’t or maybe we can’t wrestle all of the hundreds of implications but that doesn’t let me off the hook. When I am face with an opportunity, I need to consider some of the possible ramifications. How will this decision impact others? Am I reasonably convinced that what I am going to say is necessary, true and helpful? Do I remember shoulder checking before changing lanes or should I check again? Was I concentrating on something else or just not focusing when I stumbled and fell while running?

For me, this isn’t about blame. This isn’t about a legal position or a moral imperative. For me, it is about recognizing that in our very big world our small actions have consequences and ripples of consequences that flow away from the moment. I get to choose to smile or frown, to be cheerful or gloomy, to encourage or deride. Even when it seems inconsequential, my choice can leave someone else better or worse. If better, how does that flow throughout the day to other incidents and people? If someone flips me the bird because I cut them off (my bad) and I pull an ‘if only’. ” If only you had let me in when I turned on my signal” is my day better or worse. Rather if I think and acknowledge that I should have planned better, waited my turn, and/or signaled my intention better could the moment have transpired differently? What about the next interaction? The next time someone wants to merge?

As in most of the stuff I consider, it is easy to say what is the right thing to do but harder toi actually do it with consistency and maybe some courtesy. If I begin anew today, maybe I will get better and be better and make my world better.


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