Reflection: In Our Car, Faith Can Improve Our Driving
by Father Don Thomas
Scripture frequently refers to many spiritual gifts bestowed upon man by Almighty God. To mention a few, we point to faith, hope, charity, patience, wisdom, understanding, justice, love or respect for others, and more. In this reflection, let us relate some of them to the art or skill of driving, and see for ourselves if we would pass a road test given by God. We may get the surprise of our lives when the results are posted, so to speak. Let's see!
It is quite obvious to many that one's whole personality can change dramatically when he or she gets behind the wheel of a car. Don't we all know people like that? Not ourselves, of course, because we are among the perfect drivers who can only notice the faults of others. For the fun of it, however, let's take a look at ourselves and our style of driving. In the area of faith, first of all, we maintain that we believe we should treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated. Is it not strange then how we are so grateful when another driver, when there is a line of traffic, allows us to cut in front of them so we can move right along. But then three minutes later another driver wants to get out of their driveway into the traffic, or cut in from a side street into the traffic, and what is our reaction very often? "No way, buddy, you can wait cuz you're not going to get ahead of me. Wait like everyone else. Who do you think you are, buddy?” (Most of the time, our language may not be that polite either.) Boy, talk about treating others the way we were treated!!! Does our faith really make us proud of ourselves when we act like that? I really doubt it.
One's faith usually promotes thoughtfulness and kindness, and is that challenge accepted in situations in which we take the family car without asking when the car is needed by others for work, for school or a doctor's appointment? Selfish and thoughtless instead of thoughtful and kind are we in these situations. Or what about using the car and bringing it home practically on "empty"? Is that really concern for others who may have to use it early in the morning for work or school, or in an emergency during the night to get someone to the hospital? Hardly!
We do not even think of others, and that is all about selfishness, a fault we do not appreciate in others, so why are we like that ourselves? Our faith does not teach that or encourage it in any way. Quite the contrary! Included in this type of conduct is the experience of having a flat tire, switching tires, and throwing the flat tire in the trunk and telling no one about it. How would you like to be driving along in traffic, or on the way to school or work, or driving in an emergency, only to find out when you open the trunk that you have a spare tire all right—flat as a pancake! You would not be happy about it, and neither are others who experience this selfishness and thoughtlessness.
Wisdom is another virtue that should affect our driving in a positive way, but do we always act wisely behind the wheel? Consider the use and the nonuse of lights when we are driving. Late in the afternoon when it is getting dark, or at any time of the day when it is dark and dreary, very foggy, very cloudy or raining or snowing very heavily, how often we unwisely fail to turn our lights on, and not because we forget. The thought actually comes to us, but sometimes we think we are such great drivers, that we have such excellent eyesight, that we are so sharp and we don't need the lights yet—but we fail to realize that the drivers coming toward us may not have the best vision in the world, and our car appears to be so dark to them that it is almost invisible—and, no, we don't crash into them, but they smash into us. Isn't it just possible that if we had our headlights on that this could have been avoided? All the other cars have them on for a reason, you can be sure, but this approach clearly points out once again that we really aren't so wise after all. Is it wise when we deliberately fail to use our turn signal lights and cars right behind us crash right into us or a few other cars collide because of the unexpected turn we make up ahead, with no signal given. Again, not too smart! Not too wise! A lot about driving comes down to "habit", and it is a wise driver who consistently does the right thing, and not just occasionally or when they feel like it. Thoughtlessness can prove to be very costly in life and damage expenses, not to mention great inconvenience and loss of time.
Road rage? If you are close to the other car, completely ignore the other driver who may be upset because of drugs, drink, anger, late for an appointment, frustrated for so many various reasons. Usually, there is no way to help them at all, but there are a lot of ways of making things worse. To yell back at them and start the battle of "reading lips", making gestures or scoffing at them—when possibly they have a gun in the car or they have the temptation to smash right into your car—indeed, you can make matters much worse by not ignoring the other driver. Being thoughtful, alert and wise is a far better choice than being careless and stupid.
Self-Exam: note the virtues related to the following situations and reflect on them.
1. Stop talking through your windshield telling other drivers to go faster, or to take a right turn when they choose not to, or "don't try to cut in front of me" (Patience)
2. Before going anywhere, check the gas, license, insurance, extra keys, window wipers and fluid, flashlight, cables, handicap marker, the oil, diapers, and other things (Wisdom)
3. If drowsy, sleepy or too tired for a trip, pull over and get rest, and stop at various times to break up the monotony, Don't drink & drive; Clean all windows. (Value life).
4. In traffic, never pull up close to the car in front of you for two good reasons, and I say this from personal experience:
5. Never leave the scene of an accident. You may think you are in a tough situation, but when they catch up with you, you surely wish you had stayed, as the gravity of the minor accident can easily become a major problem. (Accountability & Wisdom).
Return to Fr. Thomas' Biography Page
Return to The Journals Cover Page