Rocks on the Road and Rocks in Our Heads

Some of  life’s  toughest lessons are the ones we learn the hard way.

Some of life’s most important lessons are the ones we sometimes never learn at all.

And some of life’s simplest lessons are the ones we often just ignore  – like the problem with rocks in the road.

As a bicyclist, I ride an average of at least 10 miles a day. Because of that, I ride over a lot of rocks. For the most part, I don’t even realize the rocks are there. But every once in a while, my tire hits a rock and – due to speed or angle – I get knocked off course and sometimes even knocked down. Getting knocked down hurts, and sometimes the resulting injuries even leave scars.

Because of that, when I do notice a rock, I try to avoid it. And when there are a lot of rocks, I might even change course.

That’s life on my bike.

But I’ve noticed a lot of “rocks on the road” in the rest of my life too.

These rocks are often comments or actions that people believe are completely normal and appropriate. But to the nearby traveler on the road of life, those same words or actions may be slightly offensive or, at worst, hurtful.  Sometimes they can also cause people to change course or fall down.

Just the other day, I was having coffee with a colleague who told me that years ago she had come to my office to talk about the possibility of interning with me.  When she dropped by for the unscheduled visit, she was told I was in a meeting but that I was just with my intern and could be interrupted.

That one word “just” was enough to make her turn around and walk out the door. She didn’t want to be “just an intern.”

To be honest, I think I might have been the person who told her not to worry, and she changed the story to make me feel better.  I don’t remember, but regardless of who said it, the word “just” became a rock in her life’s road.

Fortunately, for my colleague, her change of course is working for her. But she also had the advantage of already having several life successes under her belt. She could handle that rock.

I worry more about people who have so many rocks in their road that they can’t avoid them:  people who have been knocked down so many times that they don’t trust that the road ahead gets any  easier. Sometimes they’ve fallen so much, they have permanent scars.

Instead of helping clear the road, many of us are busy putting more rocks in their way. Sometimes those rocks are too big to move or go around. 

For the most part, I don’t think we are doing this on purpose. But, at times, I think we are, especially when we make judgments about people whose circumstances we know nothing about. That’s when we become victim of the rocks in our heads.

I’ve noticed a trend of people posting comments online that belittle others who are “on welfare” or “on food stamps” or that make assumptions about people based on appearance.  I don’t know which is the bigger rock: those comments or the bitter ones about people with expensive shoes, phones or cars who are receiving some sort of government assistance.

Here’s the deal. I, like most people I know, don’t believe that government assistance should be a permanent way of life. I also don’t believe that government assistance should be used for anything but basic needs. And I don’t believe smart phones and SUV’s are basic needs. I also agree that some people manipulate the system, and that we need to be diligent about stopping such abuse.

However, I also know that most people who receive assistance have fallen on hard times. Some may have previously afforded a lifestyle that included expensive clothes and cars. But then they lost their job or faced another crisis that caused them to deplete all their available resources, including help from friends and family.  After that, they were forced to seek public assistance. That expensive car may be all they have left after losing their home, a spouse or a way of life.

Instead of assuming the rocks in their road are their own fault, maybe we should think about how we can pick some up, roll them out of the way or help these individuals navigate a new course.

Doing this follows the simplest life lesson:  do unto others as we wish them to do to us.  I know if and when I hit tough times, I don’t want to ridiculed and/or blamed.

But this lesson is so simple that a lot of us ignore it when convenient. Or until there’s a rock in our own road. Or until we get the judgmental rocks out of heads.

Unfortunately, sometimes those rocks in our heads are harder to get rid of than the rocks in our roads.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on April 22, 2012, in My life, perspective, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Trina – WOW!!!! What if we all moved just one rock for someone – just think what a difference it would make in so many lives. You have done such a great job putting on paper so – just maybe – someone who reads this might think about moving one of those stones or maybe a boulder!!! Thanks for expressing this for many of us!!!

  2. I loved it. Actually, I have had tons of rocks both inside and outside of my head. Eventually I will have to build something with all I have collected, but it won’t be a wall. Excellent!

  3. Just love your perspective Trina! Please keep sharing your valuable insights.

  4. Devon Pearrell

    This is awesome and a wonderful way to get people thinking about others. Thanks!

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