By Jon Eckert
I recently realized that I’m selfish and self-absorbed. In my defense, I’ve alwaysknown I was naturally selfish; what human being isn’t? But I never grasped the magnitude of it until the other night.
A friend and I were on our way to Starbucks to drown the day’s anxieties in caffeine and sugar. We were making small talk at a stop light and somehow got on the subject of golf.
(Now I must confess, I love the game of golf but I’m terrible at it. I have this fear that I’m going to meet the perfect girl one day—she’ll eventually introduce me to her parents and her dad will be an avid golfer. Naturally he will want to hit the green with me. With a nervous grin I’ll warn him that “I’m really not very good,” hoping to take his expectations down a couple hundred notches. After I lose a box or two of balls and get a sore throat from yelling “fore” he’ll make up his mind that I am not good enough for his daughter and I’ll be forced to break up with her.)
Waiting for the light to turn green, I didn’t have the time to go into that much detail. I told my friend that I loved golf but wasn’t very good at it. When I finished talking I noticed that my audience seemed a bit distracted. I gave an inquisitive look and she explained she had been sidetracked by the ambulance that sped by during my narrative on golf.
She apologized for changing the subject and commented that someone was counting on that ambulance to be on time. At first I was hardly taken back by the simple yet intriguing observation, but as I chewed on the thought later that evening I could not help being stridently aware of my own self-absorption.
You may be thinking, “How is he pulling selfishness from just a passing ambulance?” I’m afraid it’s a bit more complex than that. You see, while explaining my personal inadequacy in the game of golf I didn’t even notice the flashing lights and the deafening sirens. Someone not too far away was hurt, sick or dying and most likely hoping for just two things: for the pain to go away and for the ambulance to be there soon. While this person was suffering, I was glibly entertaining myself [and probably only myself] with the pleasant tone and articulation of my own voice. I didn’t even have the chivalry to stop, think and pray for the person in need of the E.M.S. I didn’t even notice the ambulance.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive; maybe not. I wonder how often I overlook the needs of others because I’m too engulfed in my own trivial affairs. I’m not submitting that I should have [or could have] done something to help the ambulance. If anything, I probably would have just gotten in the way. My point is that that night my friend inadvertently punched my in the face with my own self-importance.
The only way I will ever get better at golf is by continuing to play the game. If I want my future father-in-law to respect my swing, I can’t just sit around and hope that playing golf video games will improve my skill. I’ve got to really work at it. I guess this whole selfishness thing is the same way; I’m never going to become more selfless without working at it. Pardon my cheesy parallel but it seems to fit: I need to get out there on the fairway of life and keep chipping away at my haughtiness. Sometimes I’ll slice and sometimes I’ll miss altogether. But the more I work at it the better I will get.