“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
So Nick, the narrative voice in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, summarizes the lives of his frivolous cousin and her unfaithful husband.
🚴🏼 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼.
I didn’t have to cycle back to the campground where I was hanging out with friends for the Canada Day weekend. I could have just thrown my bike in their truck with the kayaks after our afternoon paddle at Pyramid Lake. But since I had pedalled up the hill to the lake, I felt I had earned a nice downhill cruise. It’s a cyclist thing.
I wasn’t even on the main road yet when I came down a small dip and into a blind corner. And just around that corner?
A large wedding party, all decked out in peach-coloured dresses and dark suits, stretched across the road for a photo. I braked hard, automatically unclipping my right foot from the pedal to anchor myself to the ground upon stopping. Unfortunately, the loose gravel on the roughly paved road made my bike slide to the right. I fell hard to the left, my freed right foot rendered useless in preventing it.
But pretty dresses and formal suits were all still intact.
Thanks to a certain TV show and a plethora of YouTube videos where people’s painful mishaps are a form of entertainment, my crash evoked some laughter and hoots from the wedding party. Followed by a couple are-you-okays.
I’m not sure yet, I replied as I gingerly stood up to assess the damage.
The wedding party responded by turning to face the photographer and resuming their photo shoot. Now start walking towards me, I heard her instruct.
I moved my bike, flagged an oncoming car so they wouldn’t plow into the oblivious wedding people, and then went into shock – my body’s natural response to the badly broken elbow I now cradled as I sat in the ditch.
The wedding party continued with their photo shoot, eventually moving off the road but remaining within my range of vision. Surely if I could see them, they could see me. Sitting there in pain, no doubt white-faced from the shock, clutching my left arm, steadying my breathing.
If they did, they didn’t care.
🚴🏼. 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼. 🚴🏼
Careless people. We all know them because we have all fallen victim to them at one point in our lives. Carelessness comes in many forms: neglect, self-centredness, insensitivity, flippancy. Sometimes carelessness is deliberate: gossip, slander, exclusion, abuse, cruelty. Our news feeds scroll story after story of people being careless with the lives of other people. I could provide links to current stories, but by next week there would be new ones to replace them. Maybe even by tomorrow.
This was certainly not my first encounter with careless people, just the first requiring hospitals, air ambulance, and surgery. As painful as it is, being smashed physically is still easier than dealing with the aftermath of someone’s carelessness with heart and soul. Physical healing generally has a predictable timeline. Six weeks, the surgeon said. Emotional healing charts its own course. Either way, like Tom and Daisy, carelessness is oblivious to the brokenness it leaves behind. Someone else has to deal with the mess.
But here is another truth, an insightful perspective from a friend: carelessness comes from brokenness. We are a broken humanity on so many levels- our families, our racial and generational interactions, our governments, our work places, our forms of entertainment, and our relationship with the One who created us. All that brokenness leaves us centred on our own pain, the injustices against ourselves, our rights to something better. ‘Our lives matter’ has become a necessary mantra in various forms. Or hashtags. We do matter. All of us. So why do we chose to live with such careless disregard of others?
It is easy for me to speak of the times when I have been broken by someone else’s carelessness. I have fresh wounds, physical and emotional, and even old ones still have tangible scars. But what about the times when I have been careless? How many people are left wounded and scarred in my wake? How many messes have I left behind as I retreat into whatever fulfills my sense of self at any given moment?
I am deeply humbled by these thoughts, knowing in my heart that I have without a doubt been the careless one, even if I can’t (or won’t) recall a specific instance. Carelessness and foggy memory have a comfortable complementary relationship.
But what humbles me even more is that God chose brokenness in order that I might be made whole. He was wounded, pierced, crushed for my sin. Purposefully. Deliberately. Rather than a carelessness that ends in brokenness, His purposeful brokenness ends in forgiveness and restoration.
Oh what a marvellous grace, a grace far greater than my sin and carelessness. Far greater than what I deserve.