On a recent morning I stopped at a QuikTrip convenience store to fill up the car with gas. The temperature was in the single digits. The wind chill was even lower. There I stood — coat zipped tight, hat and gloves on, yet still freezing – as I refilled my tank. You know the gauge had to be below empty for me to choose to refill in that weather.
As I stood there shivering, huddled over the nozzle, I noticed another car coming in for fuel at the pump next to where I was standing. The condition of this car made me momentarily forget how cold it was. The car windows were covered with ice. I am not talking about frost, I am talking about ice. When I say “ice,” I mean “a thick layer of ice.” I wondered how the driver could possibly see to drive safely.
Then I noticed on the driver’s side of the windshield there was a small section, perhaps 10 inches wide by 8 inches tall, which had been scraped clean. Before I drove away I walked around all sides of this vehicle to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Every window was coated with a thick layer of ice except that very small section of the windshield. The driver had just enough room to peek out through the windshield and see the road right in front of the car.
At first I laughed as I drove away, thinking how the driver had probably prevented frostbite on a finger or two. But the more I thought about it the laughter stopped. It began to dawn on me how dangerous it was to drive with the windows in that condition. As I drove toward my destination, my thoughts turned to living in community.
Truth is, many people go through life like that driver that morning – looking only at what is right in front of them.
They do not look back to learn from their mistakes and failures. They cannot see people in their rear-view mirror who have been affected (positively or negatively) by their interaction. They cannot see people they have encouraged by recent conversation. They cannot see people they have built up and helped through a difficult time. Neither can they see people left reeling after a recent encounter. They don’t see people left hurting and discouraged by careless words.
They cannot see the people to their left and right. They don’t see people who are on the journey with them. The people with whom they might need to merge. The people to whom they might should yield. The people who have a similar destination and might need some help along the way. They are unaware of people who might make a mistake by swerving to the right or left and entering space that should be theirs.
They cannot see all those out in front of them. They are unable to have a clear vision of those who may be moving forward in the same direction but in a different lane. They have no idea whether the people in the next lane are making progress and whether a lane change would be appropriate. They can see only the person who might be directly in front of them. They cannot see road signs ahead that communicate directions, warnings, safety rules, and even location.
The call of God is the call to live in community. That means we need to see more than what is directly in front of us. We are on a journey together. We are not lone rangers or solitary travelers. We live in community. Community means that when we make a decision we do so with the community in mind. Do we realize that our choices and decisions might affect people in front of us, behind us, and beside us? Do we realize that failing to consider the people all around us might lead to a disastrous crash?
So when we are tempted to scrape only a peep hole in the windshield ice, we need to stop, put on some gloves, and take the time to clear all of our windows before hitting the road. The choice is between living in community or living selfishly, which is really a choice between living or not living.