I have a confession to make. On Saturday, I did a stupid thing. As I was talking on my cell phone and attempting to cross Chestnut Street at Fifth, I failed to check for oncoming traffic at the intersection. Instead I relied on the blinking walk sign. This foolish error nearly got me run over. A woman in a Mercedes barreled through the red light missing me by just a few inches. Fortunately for me, a stranger pulled me back by my jacket and rescued me from certain injury. I was not the only one he saved. His wife had been following blindly behind me right into the oncoming car and he instinctively grabbed his beloved’s shoulder to pull her out of harm’s way. Naturally all three of us were shaken by the incident. However, the woman in the Mercedes jeered at us as though we were the ones breaking the law.
“Geez, you’re like a pack of sheep,” the man said. He’d earned the right to admonish us. After all, I had relied on a machine to give me directions, and his wife had followed after my mistake. I looked at him, yes, “sheepishly” and thanked him for his quick reaction. As we parted, I began to think about the nature of human beings and how truly sheep-like we are. Other than the fact that sheep actually reside in flocks, not packs, my Saturday hero was correct in his assessment.
Too often we behave unconsciously, preferring to follow the flock in whatever direction it takes, even if that direction finds us at the bottom of a cliff. An obvious example of this is the story of the five teenage girls several years ago who all got drunk and decided to take a joy ride that ended in their tragic deaths. Of course, the phenomenon is not confined to youth. We see it in politics—how effortlessly the U.S. government was able to bail out the banks with our collective consent just by using fear tactics to sell the idea! Or the fashion world—what sadist came up with the idea of the stiletto heel? And why in the world do so many women follow this trend to risk ankle and back in the name of style?
Yes, we are sheep…more often than I care to admit. But sometimes we’re border collies too. The man who pulled me out of oncoming traffic on Saturday was a collie at that moment, and I’m grateful he was there barking me to safety. My near accident was a lesson that I have to be more conscious of my surroundings, more aware of my decisions, not only for myself, but because I am sometimes an unwitting role model to others. However, that wasn’t my only lesson of the weekend. In a world of sheep and collies, I’d rather be the working dog diligent and committed to my responsibility for taking care of my fellow human beings. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels that way. Even though it’s sometimes exhausting, it feels good to be the collie; to do what’s right for the good of your community. The truth is if we were all more like collies and less like sheep, the wolves wouldn’t stand a chance.