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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