Driving Lesson Comes From Roadside Sign

Driving into a small town in western Texas, a hand-painted sign hangs alongside the road.

“Welcome to God’s Country – please don’t drive through it like hell.”

Good advice, it seems, comes from the oddest of places.

With my foot relaxing off the accelerator, the words begin percolating in my mind. For the past several hours my goal is to simply go from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time or interruption. The faceless passages in the windshield were just that – a canvas of changing images marked in time by small green mileage markers.

And then came the entrance to a small town with fewer residents than attend a local high school football game in most communities.

The words slowly began clearing the fog of my hours of interstate driving. Suddenly my eyes began opening to the images beyond the self-imposed comfort zone of a couple hundred feet around my windshield. Small details – the unusual, yet typical, western architecture of certain buildings – began revealing themselves like a trip back in time. And standing along the road like sentries, handcrafted plywood signs from local family businesses offering Christmas greetings spoke to travelers. The town, although small in stature, was large with life.

And then, as quickly as the town arrived in my windshield, it’s images moved to my rearview mirror.

But then the unexpected began happing — the words of the plywood sign began traveling with me.

How often, I began wondering, do we mindlessly keep pressing our personal accelerator without allowing the world around us inside the windshield? How much are we – literally speaking – mindlessly missing? By passively tuning out our surroundings, we might as well be driving through life in the dark.

For each of us, our personal world is filled with interesting people, rewarding experiences, and countless opportunities to engage. All we need to do is simply look around. The telling question is, however, do we actively absorb and engage with life?

With the mile markers of Western Texas continuing to accumulate, the subject of these probing questions began taking a very personal turn. With my children, now adults, am I making sure to value each and every moment of their time? Am I sharing with those around me how much I value them – letting them know the world would be incomplete or hollow without them? Does my wife, who I cannot imagine living a moment of my life without, know how much I love her? Do my actions truthfully support those feelings? Or am I guilty to driving through life without fully appreciating or communicating with the world outside of my windshield?

And to be honest, I did not need to dig too deep before discovering moments of me driving too fast to experience the truly important moments or opportunities around me. And as I learned, along with my other fellow travelers, navigating this road includes a generous serving of emotional bumps and bruises.

But today — and going forward — is different. Now I am traveling with a very peculiar roadside sign next to me with a powerful reminder of remembering to not drive like hell through life.

– 30 –

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Angels Come In All Shapes, Sizes

Sometimes we don’t need to stray too far from our own doorstep to find someone who resets our faith in mankind.

“One day an angel knocked at my door,” said the woman.

Standing in the living room of her modest home, tears are welling up, her voice struggling to remain steady.

“There was a stranger at my front door. I didn’t know her. She asked me if I want help getting my house repaired – and I said yes.”

This homeowner, who’d lived in her modest one-bedroom house for nearly twenty-five years, is strong and independent. So independent, she never reached out for help after Hurricane Ike flooded and damaged her home more than a half-dozen years ago. And since the storm’s visit, she’s been living in house where floors continue to buckle and warp and water increasingly rots the walls from the bottom up. Heating and cooling, for her, are something other people enjoy.

The woman’s eyes look around at a house her imagination could never paint.

Floors are now flat, smooth, and beautiful – the walls completely stripped down and rebuilt on the existing frame. Windows, once so warped and unable to open and close, now allow the smell of flowers drift in. The simple task of closing an interior door is again possible.

A young man is standing near the homeowner as she is shares her story with a small group of us – his life forever intertwined with homeowner in the small blue house on the corner of quiet neighborhood.

And because the homeowner answered the knock on the door, this young man found himself with an assignment to help put the woman’s house – and life – back together again. He, too, is modest, but the power of the moment is not lost on him.

Sometimes we tend to get a bit jaded about society. But for me — standing in this woman’s freshly painted living room — there is a much different story to see. In this house lives a woman who didn’t look to others to fix her problems. For this woman could see from her front porch so many others who’d lost everything in the storm. But to her, she could still get by – even if it meant living with a few ‘inconveniences’.

But time went on, the woman continuing to go about her life without interruption. While those around her found themselves on the benefiting end of government programs to rebuild, she quietly left for work each day only to return to a house crumbling in around her. But regardless, she never asked anyone for help. Surely, she thought, there were still others out there who needed the help more than her. Strong, proud, independent people are like that.

“I prayed to God,” she said. “And then He sent someone to my door.”

A lot of remarkable things happened to allow this story to happen – the chance passing of a stranger, a homeowner who was home at the time, and a young man in the position to help change a life.

The odds of this story being told are long and difficult to calculate from any perspective. Many will tell you too long.

But, according to this homeowner, she’ll simply tell you angels still walk our streets.

 

– 30 –