I used to ignore it, but the older I get, the more I listen to it.
While I had heard it before, I remember this particular event so vividly, I’ll speak of it here as if it were the first time.
Park Forest, Ill, 1953 – building a new 500-home subdivision: I was the chief engineer and surveyor for an excavating company which dug out the pattern of streets and building sites for this new city. I’d been on the job several months and had made many friends in the area. I made a few enemies too.
There was this one guy in our company I definitely did not like, and it was clear nothing could change that. He was slimy, lying, and vicious, I could never trust him with anything, and he knew it. We stayed away from each other as much as possible, but I’d hear little things he had said about me that were not true, and were always quite degrading.
One day I was out in the middle of a large grassy field, driving stakes in the ground to guide the bulldozers in removing a hill that stood in the way of a proposed road. The grass was quite high, and I was partially hidden as I crouched down, working near the ground.
As I pounded away on the wooden marker stakes, I heard a bulldozer getting close to me. I paid little attention because the noise was some distance away and behind me. Surely the driver was looking where he was going so I don’t have to react by jumping up and looking around like a fool.
But a small voice, barely audible said: “Don’t be stupid, Bob, check it out. Don’t take any chances with bulldozers.”
I ignored it.
The dozer noise got closer. The tiny message repeated. The noise got louder — almost on top of me. I swung around and there was a huge ten-foot-wide dozer blade a few feet above my head and traveling fast directly over me. I dropped everything, and jumped out of the way as the machine crushed the ground and the stakes I had been working with.
It was my “enemy.”
As I watched him drive on past, he kept his head looking the other way as if he never saw me.
Or did he? I thought about this. I thought about the fact that you could easily kill a fellow worker and never claim responsibility. I hadn’t been standing up to be easily seen, and he could claim he never saw me because of that. Yet his cab was eight feet higher than where I was and he certainly could have seen further than I.
I was damn angry but also frightened. I could be killed and it all blamed on me. I decided to confront him.
In his usual slimy manner, he claimed he never saw me, and besides that, what was I doing hiding in the grass where he was working! “Anybody as stupid as that deserves to get run over!”
I sensed the futility of escalating the matter, so let it go.
But I never forgot my unexpected re-discovery of that small voice. I then realized it had always been there, I just seemed to be becoming more aware of it.
How do I tell the difference between this voice and all the other voices in me? I think it may be because of its softness, compared to the other loud voices of pride and greed and thinly-based dead-certainty. This voice has to be listened for, since it is small and quiet and barely detectable.
What is it? Is it God? Is it my own inner self? Is it a guardian angel? Is it long-gone friends and relatives trying to protect and guide me – or all of these? I won’t attempt to figure it out. All I know is that it has saved my life on several occasions and I will continue to listen for it and encourage it. Maybe if I make it feel welcome, it will speak more often.
I could tell you more about this small voice, if you’re interested.
By the way – have you heard it?