Shortcuts. They’re everywhere. We all take them. We have shortcut keys on our computer keyboard. Shortcut icons on our screens or smartphones. We have shortcuts on our routes home from work, school, or the store. We have shortcuts to fixing broken things, to cooking, to cleaning, and so much more. Why do we take them? Because they’re easier, quicker, and require less effort and time. Plus, the quicker we reach the end goal, the quicker we get to pat ourselves on the back. And what’s so wrong about a hearty pat on the back?
We like shortcuts, but are they always right? Consider these pushbacks:
- “Shortcuts make long delays.” ~ C.S. Lewis
- “If you take shortcuts you get cut short.” ~ Gary Busey
- “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” ~ Beverly Sills
- “Yesterday’s shortcuts are today’s nightmares.” ~ Mark O’Brien
I like shortcuts just as much as the next person. Even though I know the truth about them, I still take them. Frequently, if I’m being honest. It just seems as if the long road feels so wrong, while the shortcuts feel so right.
Recently I went for a walk early in the morning. I put my headphones in and fired up a sermon podcast to listen to. It was cold (just below freezing) and still dark outside. I went a little different route than I normally go—which I’ve done before—but nothing too far off the beaten path. I came to a point on my way back home where I needed to make a decision. Should I take the long way home or take the shortcut? I didn’t want to take the long way home. I didn’t want to work that hard, nor take the extra time. I wanted to take the shortcut. Get home. Be done. And call it good. I wrestled in my mind for a bit and—for whatever reason—convinced myself I needed to put in the extra effort.
As I began the long trek toward home—deep into this sermon I had playing in my ears—I heard a voice talking over my shoulder. I thought to myself, “Somebody must be talking on their cellphone in their driveway.” I thought nothing further of it and kept walking. Immediately, I heard the voice again, and something told me to turn around and look. When I did, I saw an elderly lady on the ground in her robe waving her arms at me and saying, “Can you help me? Can you help me?”
I hustled over to her, yanked out my headphones, and got the story. Evidently, she went out to get the newspaper in her yard, lost her balance, fell, and couldn’t get herself back up. So, she was just waiting for a car to drive by so she might wave them down.
Did I mention it was early in the morning? Did I mention it was cold out? Did I mention it was still dark? And did I mention she was elderly? Bless this poor woman!
She told me her son was inside sleeping and he was going to be “mad as hell” at her for doing this. She told me not to go inside and wake him. She told me we should wait for the next car to drive by and try to get their help. Did I listen? No!
I went inside and knocked on the son’s bedroom door. It sounded like he fell out of bed and ran into about 12 things before opening the door. He freaked out a bit, but it all turned out okay. We got her up, got her back inside, and away I went.
(On a side note…my friends told me I was nuts for going in a stranger’s house. That I could have been shot. Hmm…that possibility never crossed my mind.)
I was back on the long road home. The long road…which somehow wasn’t feeling so wrong after all.
I wonder…if I had taken the shortcut, what would have happened to that elderly woman? Sure, someone else would have come along and helped her. But would that someone else have learned the lesson I did?
The long road just may be the right road in the end.