They Are Just Empty Cars
On this warm pre-spring afternoon, I sit on the balcony, enjoy the weather, the view and a good book. A couple of redwing blackbirds cling to the branches of a nearby tree and sing for the coming of spring. Across the tracks, on the other side of the creek, thirty head of cattle quietly feed on a pile of hay left by the farmer. Soon they'll graze on new grass in the pasture further down the creek.
I lift my head at the sound of a train's horn wailing into the still air. A mile down the tracks that pass between the creek and our apartment complex, I see the headlights on the engine car grow brighter. My peace is interrupted as the train races by and our kitten cringes by the balcony doors, begging to escape the terrifying noise.
I let her in and watch the rail cars roll by, some more noisy than others. The full cars, rumble pass, but the empty ones rattle and bang along, making more noise than the others. They're painful to the ears.
The comparison between the full and empty cars makes me think of the people I've known throughout my fifty years of life.
There was Don. I remember when he hired me. He was a client of mine, but my job was lost to cut backs at my company. Don offered me a job at his company. It was a pleasure to work under his leadership. He didn't order his employees, he guided them. For example: during our first weekly meeting, he didn't tell me what to do. He looked at me and asked, "What did you and your team accomplish last week?"
I stumbled for an answer.
Don then asked, "What are your plans for this week?"
I stumbled for an answer again.
Those two questions guided me to think and plan. He never caught me off guard again. Each meeting I showed up with our accomplishments for the week and our plans for the next.
Another empty rail car rattled by and I remembered the bullies from my childhood.
They strutted around the school yard, bumped into smaller kids and called others names. These bullies usually had two or three others snickering at their side.
The rattle of the car reminded me of a guy I used to work with as a telecommunications technician many years ago. When I worked on a trouble, he would wander by and sneer, "What are you doing that for? Do you know what you're doing?" I ignored him, but his snicker was more than audible, as he made his way down the aisle of racks filled with telecommunication equipment.
I tried to concentrate on my task. I had been sure of myself. His words made me doubt my capabilities.
You meet quiet and noisy ones as you travel through life.
The quiet ones are full of knowledge: great leaders and mentors. They carry us on a great adventure.
The noisy ones: empty of knowledge, think they are leaders, but bluster through life giving nothing in return. They think they fool those around them by making a lot of noise to look important and pretend to know what they are doing. The noisy ones are the bullies, the braggarts and the show offs. They pull us along an empty track to nowhere.
In reality, they are just empty cars.
Michael T. Smith