Thank You, Mr. Flagman

It isn’t our position but our disposition which makes us happy. ~Author Unknown

The long line of rush hour traffic snaked its way down the rain-slick street as I glanced nervously at my watch. 5:30! It was the third time this week I’d been late picking up the children, and the babysitter would be unhappy. Well, she’d just have to be unhappy, I told myself. My being late couldn’t be helped. Nothing had gone right all day, from the dead battery in the car this morning to the secretary’s absence throwing the whole office out of kilter. This traffic jam seemed the perfect ending to a horrible day.
All I wanted was to get home and collapse in a tubful of hot, soapy water and enjoy some peace and quiet. But I knew the kids would be clamoring for supper the minute we walked in the door, and I’d left the house in such a mess this morning that I really needed to do something about it before my husband got home. Then after supper there’d be dishes to wash and tomorrow’s lunches to pack and a load of laundry that really shouldn’t be put off another day. After that, all I’d feel like doing was falling into bed, just like every other night.
I sighed loudly, though there was no one to hear. Lately my life seemed nothing more than a never-ending cycle of chores, work, and sleep, with nothing to break the monotony but weekends filled with more chores. Surely there was more to living than this. I guess I was simply too busy and too tired to look for it.
And then I saw him.
The lone flagman was standing, barely visible but for his blaze orange vest, in the middle of the street, patiently directing four lanes of traffic as they merged into one. But there was something unusual about this flagman, and as I edged my car forward waiting my turn to pass, I realized what it was.
Standing in the midst of dozens of impatient motorists, soaked to the skin and getting more drenched with every icy mud puddle splashed on him, he was smiling. And at every driver that passed, he not only smiled, he waved. Not many waved back, but some did. A lot of them smiled.
As I sat waiting my turn in my warm, dry car, I began to feel ashamed. If this man, who did nothing all day but watch one car after another go by, could stand in the cold rain hour after monotonous hour and still have a friendly gesture for every single person who passed, what right did I have to complain about my life? I thought again about what lay ahead of me tonight — a snug house, plenty of good food needing only to be prepared and, most of all, a caring husband and children who I loved more than anything in the world.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow I had the opportunity to use my skills and intelligence to perform useful, important work. What kind of life did I have? An absolutely wonderful one.
It was finally my turn to pass the flagman. As if on cue, we waved at each other. “Thank you,” I mouthed through the window. He smiled and nodded and I drove on, spirits lifted, attitude changed. And in the rear view mirror I could see him, raising his hand in greeting to every car that passed.

~Jennie Ivey

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