When you hear the sirens and in your rearview mirror, see the red and blue lights, pull over to the side of the road and let the ambulance pass. Do not be frustrated or glance at your watch; someone’s someone is in there. And when the ambulance passes wait a little longer, let the sirens fade.
A hearse will make no sound behind you. No warning, flashing lights, but pull over anyway and let it pass as well, and turn your radio down.
Pay attention. Pay attention to this life. The imperceptible, quiet battles being fought every day, and the unwritten code of conduct in this game we have to play.
Do not stare at the tired mother eating doughnuts in her car. Some emptiness cannot be left unfilled; sometimes sugar is a better friend than none. The customer at the drive-through window who orders three Big Mac meals for one. The regular on his bar stool, Wednesday morning, one drink in.
Be patient with the lady at the supermarket checkout counting quarters, nickels, dimes, fishing in her purse for three more cents for her bread, milk, and can of beans. Be gentle with the old man, at the end of the month, whose debit card will not run. And if you must apprehend the shoplifter, please take him to the back room first.
The middle-aged security guard at the end of his shift, in a worn out suit, his worn out eyes staring blankly ahead. Do not disturb him as he leans against the window of the 11:40 pm bus, but if he falls asleep make sure to gently wake him before the end of the route.
There are preludes to every instance, stories behind every face. Your line is just one of an infinity crisscrossing. Tread lightly on those.
We are judged by the laws that govern our societies, but measured by the principles we adopt. Most of us are flawed, yes, but all of us are doing the best we can. A man who lies is a dishonest one; a man who steals is a thief. But a liar is scared of the truth and a thief who steals bread is hungry. So survival of the fittest, every man for himself, and to each his due, it is true. But our value is in that last margin of freedom and what we choose to do with it.
Respect every profession, and the dignity of every person you cross. That popcorn you throw on the movie theater floor, someone will have to pick up.
Keep a handkerchief at the ready. A clean one, soft on the nose. Life is littered with strangers crying on benches, in the metro, in churches, in the park.
Do not waste time, food, or money. Be generous with all three. Enjoy them while you have them, and if and when you do not, enjoy not having them. Happiness is a choice.
This code is not a rule book, a list of suggestions at most. Derived from observations of great people I have loved, who chose to pay attention to the rules of this life and play it with dignity.