Lenten Reflections #24
After driving 20 miles through winding roads in Georgia en route to a baseball game I thought about what gives a community its heartbeat, keeps its blood flowing, and oxygen pumping. As I looked out the window, each glance told me I could be in “Anywhere USA”.
Here’s what we saw:
Subdivisions were stacked up like dominoes, smells of fried anything wafted through parking lots and the occasional farm peppered with cows and horses blurred my peripheral.
Plazas lined the streets, some with businesses boarded up due to COVID, others with “Grand Opening” signs and lights.
Dollar Stores loaded with inventory and full parking lots, too many banks, steeples topping churches with their saying things like “Don’t let six strong men take you to church”. Kroger and Publix vying for customers, a gas station where a guy was manually changing the sign from $2.60/gallon to $2.80, and a Chic-fil-a drive thru lines circling their store with one woman mowing the lawn out front because that’s what their employees do, but never on a Sunday.
As I drive behind a big truck, a sun-faded VOTE TRUMP bumper sticker stares back at me and I strain to see what the small print says under the plea. “Does it say Pick your feelings?” I ask my son, “No, Mama” he says in a teenage wow-you’re-blind kind of way, “It says a bad word.” I squint a little more…”Ohhhhh, I see it now.” On the next road where we turn, a “Black Lives Matter” sign sits on a healthy, green lawn and
I’m reminded how diverse and vocal our homes, cars, trucks, and t-shirts have become.
Then I digress and applaud the homeowners in my head for not choosing Bermuda grass that resembles bits of hay on dirt this time of year.
I then ponder the souls behind the walls of the local Wal-Mart working to pay for their next dinner for 5 or 6 or maybe 1, or the teen-age boy learning to change the oil of his truck on the side driveway that he helped lay.
Then we pass a small trailer park where kids dash off a crowded school bus, stuffing masks in their pockets, ready to jump rope, take the laundry off the line or read their coveted library books.
With 10 miles to go, the topography transposes into large homes with basketball nets and multiple cars in driveways. Ornate subdivision names like “Willow Lake” or “Equestrian Estates” sit nestled in multi-colored stone walls.
I see a mom pumping gas at the local Chevron — probably feeling like an Uber driver shuttling kids from school to practice and home only to repeat it the next day.
The familiar green and white logo of Starbucks catches my eye and I’m sure in the drive through line there’s a teenager worried about grades or boys or college wait lists or the SAT.
At Dunkin Donuts I can picture a teacher treating herself to coffee before work this morning, pleased she had time to stop.
Sitting in a spin class behind the local gym doors there’s probably an older gentleman wearing the same red shirt he wears every Monday to the gym at 5:45 a.m., because that’s his routine and it makes him happy.
Sanitizing baskets at Publix we pass, there is likely a newly employed high school student who chose to do virtual school and save money for the truck he thinks he so desperately needs.
After almost an hour drive I suddenly realized NPR was playing quietly telling us about the state of our nation, but didn’t care much as my son and I simply chatted about that precious present that slips by so quickly.
As we finally wound our way through this microcosm of the world, we parked in the school lot. Baseball players poured out of their parents cars while others loaded onto a bus to go to another game on our side of town. I wondered if the players and coaches would take a minute to look up from their phones and see the similarities we share. Because whether it’s 20 miles or 2,000 – the steps we take in our world aren’t that different than our neighbor’s.
Much like our bodies –age, exhaustion and abuse take a toll on a city, town, or neighborhood. But it takes the people, students, parents, kids, and the entire community to resuscitate it every day with kindness, hope, and laughter. The brick and mortar gives us a place to hang our hats, but the world can’t go on without the sentiments behind the walls.
An empty room is but a vessel waiting to be filled with laughter and sadness, pain and joy.
On Faith and Fitness:
On your next drive, carefully look out the windows and enjoy the view. Then park far away from your destination so you can get a good walk in for the day.