Theresa Thomas
Everyday Catholic
February 19, 2020 // Perspective

Driving with God

Theresa Thomas
Everyday Catholic

This morning, I was taking my high school freshman to school. Halfway there, coming toward us, was an emergency vehicle with flashing lights and sirens blaring. We were stopped at an intersection at a red light. Two cars pulled in front of the emergency vehicle from the side, presumably so as to make the green light. The emergency vehicle had to slow down to miss the last car.

I’ve seen this and similar behavior a lot lately in drivers on the road — cars that don’t slow down and pull over for emergency vehicles, others that rush past a school bus that is stopping and has an armguard coming out, vehicles that come to a four-way stop, barely stop and then plow through or go out of turn. My personal pet peeve is the driver who passes you on the right, speeds past you, then gets back into your lane on the left and turns on his signal to turn … left, causing you to have to stop.

Drivers, in general, seem to be moving toward a trend of selfishness and lack of caution. I suspect this a form of feeling entitled. I feel like this is my space, my lane, my route, my day … my, my, my Sprinkle this with a little competition and you’ve got a recipe for more dangerous roads. And definitely, on a different level, simply an unkinder world.

What does this have to do in a family column about faith?

I think if we step back and look at what is happening, we can see several things: an increase in selfishness, a lack of humility and too much rushing. It’s selfish to take the first, the best, the most, of anything. It’s also a bit prideful. The Bible tells us “…when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher,’ then you will have a honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.” (Luke 14:10) This is also just good manners. When we are driving, we shouldn’t automatically assume the road is ours only or first.

Next let’s look at the rushing thing. We go here. We go there. Rushing with driving, however, starts with rushing before even getting in the car. We overschedule, overcommit. People can get a hold of us nearly any time, day or night, on account of split-second sending emails and texts. We are on information overload because of modern technology that provides up-to-the-second news when we open our computers or other devices for the day. Many times we need these devices for work, so it’s not just a matter of keeping them off or eliminating them.

The information is almost always negative. It adds just another load of stress to hear about this crime or that virus, or these politicians duking it out.

Have you ever been guilty of cramming in doing just one more thing before leaving for an appointment? Perhaps it is putting a stray cup in the dishwasher, grabbing the garbage for the can as you are walking out, or answering just one quick text. You know how long it takes to get to the appointment, so you work right up to the time you have to leave. But you didn’t account for the funeral procession you get behind, or the train that passes in front of your destination route, or the roads that are a wee bit icy or uncharacteristically traffic-filled. Then stress rises, and we are tempted to be like the annoying drivers I spoke of in the first paragraph. We set ourselves up for stress, entitlement and bad driving by rushing.

What’s the answer? Well, first, while I see a general negative selfish trend in drivers in the last few years, it seems to be escalating, I’m not saying all people are like that. I need to put these frustrating driving moments in perspective. I’m heartened when I arrive at a stop sign and the fellow who was clearly there first smiles and motions me to go ahead. I know I have control of such courtesies as well.

Second, I try to leave the house a little earlier, to maintain my own sense of calm and to allow for intrusions of the time that inevitably will occur.

Every morning on my way back from dropping off my daughter, I turn on an audio recording of Father Peyton praying that day’s mysteries of the rosary. Coincidentally or providentially, it takes exactly the amount of time to pray one mystery from the school parking lot to my garage. Listening to the audio and praying along keep me concentrating on the meditations of the mystery and keep me focused on God and His will for me that day.

Today it occurred to me I should perhaps pray for those around me in their cars, going to their own destinations. In that way I can be an anonymous channel of grace for them, even if they never know it.

I may not be able to reverse the trend of poor driving, but at least I won’t be part of the problem. And I may just make a difference in my little corner of the world.

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