“Hey man! You need a ride home?” It was a dumb question. Of course, I needed a ride home! It was either ride the bus (puleeze!) or walk the two miles carrying a stack of books, so I was obviously waiting around for someone to offer. Leave it to my buddy, Tony to notice my glaring lack of transportation. It was still a year until I would make my quantum leap to the 1972 Chevy Vega which was to be my first automobile, but Tony had wheels. Well, Tony had wheels of a sort. I will admit that today, in my advanced state of nerdiness, I think the vehicle Tony drove to school was totally cool. It was a little different then, if only because any of his riders had to be willing to submit to a bit of embarrassment. That, and a few contortions. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
In the town in which I grew up, the U.S. Post Office (not yet the U.S. Postal Service) utilized a number of ways for moving the mail, but for years you could see little red, white, and blue three-wheeled carts zipping up and down the streets, delivering the mail to homes and businesses. These handy little motorized trikes were made by the Cushman company in Nebraska and got great gas mileage. As it happened, they could also tip over. And they did. More than once. The mail carriers complained about the vehicles being dangerous and underpowered and eventually, the Post Office replaced them with Jeeps. They sold off the unwanted and unnecessary little three-wheelers by the dozens. My home-town Post Office was no exception and thus, Tony acquired his “wheels”. It was a bit of a departure from the norm, but if you knew my buddy Tony, you would understand that it was the perfect vehicle for him. Tony was no rebel, but he wasn’t about to fit anybody’s mold. I got to know him in band, where he owned the only trumpet in a section full of cornets. He was a strong advocate for his church’s tenets and we butted heads over those occasionally. He was also a good friend. We still talk, thanks to today’s social media. I like the idea of not losing touch with people who impacted my life in positive ways. But I think that I’ve once again followed a trail which was not in the original plan, haven’t I?
Where was I? Oh, right! Contortions and humility. Well, accepting a ride from Tony in his three-wheeler meant that one had to open the sliding door in the mail storage section at the rear of the trike and clamber in. We tried it once with both of us riding side by side on the front seat, but that was a little closer than we wanted to be for that amount of time. Reputations and all that, you understand? So, it was the mail storage for me, the whole skinny six feet of me, folded up and squeezed into the little cubicle. Around corners, and over bumps, it was a little nerve-wracking and uncomfortable to be in that closed-up space. I really don’t have a problem with claustrophobia, but in my memory, there was always a sense of relief at being released from the confining box. It seems to me that, although I trusted Tony’s driving, I felt the need to see where we were going and to be able to do something about an emergency headed my way. I was totally at his mercy while the ride lasted. That said, like many of my childhood recollections, I wouldn’t give up the memory of those rides home for anything.
What is it about putting ourselves in someone else’s hands that shakes us to our core? Self-reliance…that is our mantra, our armor. It keeps us in control. It keeps others from controlling us. We don’t like giving up control in any way. As I write this, my mind goes unbidden to my experience a couple of months ago as I lay helpless on the hard “bed” in the emergency room, unable to function on my own, the victim of a bicycle accident and resulting concussion. The Lovely Lady answered questions for me, the attendants wheeled me through the halls to an examination room, where I was thrust into a machine…no, a torture chamber of electronics and metal and glass. I cringe inside right now as I consider it. My distaste is not only for the experience at the hospital, but for the hour and a half that I wandered the cycle path, attempting to return home without any awareness of where I was and what I was doing. The experience is easily one of the worst in memory for me – not because of the pain or time spent healing, but because of the knowledge that for once in my life, I was not consciously in control of my actions or their result. The sense of helplessness was (and is) intensely unsettling.
I could spend a lot of words here, reminding you of One in whose strong hands our very existence rests. Let me say only this: Self-reliance is a myth, a web of deceit woven around us by our culture, and reinforced by our media and entertainment. We are dependent from the day we are born, until the day we lie in our graves, but we fool ourselves and build walls and fences to maintain our sense of strength and self-sufficiency. It will come as no surprise to you that I am unwavering in my faith in a Creator who holds our days, all of them, within His loving hands. His Grace also is none of our doing, but a gift given to a race helpless to redeem any part of itself. With that, I’ll cease my preaching and move on.
It would seem that a stint of complete dependence once in awhile can have a positive result, once the initial shock is overcome. But even after granting that, I’m not anxious for another tumble from my bike anytime soon, nor am I expecting Tony’s arrival at my door in the little Cushman Mailster to be my chauffeur in the foreseeable future. Some lessons are best learned from and not repeated.
Thanks for the ride home, Tony!
“Let’s face it. In most of life we really are interdependent. We need each other.”
(Greg Anderson~American best-selling author)
“This is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. It is not of works, so that no one may boast.”