Our default way of being-in-the-world is to deny our freedom. Which freedom? The freedom to choose. Whilst I can talk about this philosophically, I prefer to point this out using a story.
The Bus Driver’s Gift
One afternoon a bus driver was taking 40 children home from school. As the bus made its way down a steep grade, the brakes failed. The driver was unable to steer the bus to the left because of a high embankment or to the right because of a steep cliff.
As the bus hurtled down the hill, the driver recalled that there was a narrow gate at the bottom which led into a field. He decided to try to steer the bus through the gate and into the field, figuring it would eventually come to a safe stop. He hoped that no cars or other obstacles would get in his way before he got to the gate.
When the bus reached the bottom of the hill, the driver saw the gate approaching fast. But to his horror, he noticed a small child sitting on the gate, waiving at the bus.
It was too late to change plans now. If the driver tried to avoid the gate, 40 children would die. He cried out in anguish as the bus slammed directly into the game. The innocent child died instantly in the collision, but that bus and all of its passengers were saved.
Emergency vehicles were the first to arrive on the scene, followed shortly by relieved parents and grandparents. Many of them wanted to show their appreciation and gratitude to the driver who had kept the bus under control long enough to save their children. But the driver was nowhere to be found. They asked the police officer where he had gone.
“They’ve taken him to the hospital,” the officer said. “He’s suffering from severe shock.”
“Well that’s understandable, ” they replied.
“No, you don’t understand, ” said the officer. “You see, that little boy on the fence was his own son.”
To be human is to be be free, condemned to choose
We play little, we find excuses, we pretend that we are merely ‘victims’ or ‘passengers’ in the game of life. What this story does is to remind us of a truth that we’d rather not see nor face up to. Why?
Because with this truth, comes responsibility: responsibility for the way our life is, responsibility for the way our community is, responsibility for the way our organisations are, responsibility with the way life is.
Stuff happens, that is simply the way the universe works. Sometimes, even often, we don’t get to choose what happens. And always we get to choose how we will respond to that which the universe puts our way. This is the essential truth that this story brings alive for me.