The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes

11/20/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

I saw a car yesterday in traffic, a mid-’80s compact model, and it reminded me of something that I hadn\’t thought of in years. Two decades ago, I was working as a salesman — like I am now, only with far less success — and I wandered into a car dealership to make a sales call. It was yet another rejection when I desperately needed a sale.

The salesman noticed me eyeing a brand-new compact car and began giving me his pitch on the way out. He opened the door and made me slide in; I experienced that “new car smell” and took in the spotlessly clean interior. It was mesmerizing, and as far out of reach as the constellations in the sky. I thanked him, turned down a test drive, and slogged through the snow back to my old junker, which I drove off into the gathering gloom of a wintry evening.

I thought about that car forever, struggling to make ends meet raising a family on my income while my wife stayed home to raise our children. I marveled at a world that seemed so far beyond my reach: a world where people could buy a house, not rent; where people bought their children new clothes whenever they needed them; where people could walk into a dealership and buy a new car if the mood struck. All I could see was my poverty, and I was convinced that this other world would be a happy one indeed.

When I saw that same model, dented and rusted, smoking its way through traffic the other day, I was amazed at how small and unspectacular it really was. I\’m 47 now, almost 48. My wife went back to school after the kids were grown, and now she teaches. We certainly aren\’t rich, but we have bought and discarded a half-dozen new vehicles that all put that low-end GM product to shame. The poverty that shamed me and left me feeling so helpless at times is just a distant memory. Like all young couples, we struggled. but God was always faithful to provide what we needed — we never went without.

We’re reading through Ecclesiastes in our Bible study, and someone asked what value the book holds for a Christian. Well, when you understand it was written by a man of unlimited wealth, who sought to test the limits of the happiness it could buy, always coming up empty, then you see the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

There is no “other world,” where material wealth brings forth a joyous existence of unbounded peace and contentment. Test if you must, but my experience with automobiles shows me that Solomon knew what he was talking about: “Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!”

Music by Bweinh! — Incorruptible

11/14/2008, 3:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Opening a series of reflections on songs written and performed by Bweinh!tributors, we present “Incorruptible” (© 2005 D. Sweet [words] and S. Maxon [music]), as recorded live by the band Maxon.

Listen to or download the song here (for a limited time)!

The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8 (NKJV)

This is the section of Scripture I had been meditating on when I wrote the words for the poem that became “Incorruptible.” It was so different from anything else I had ever read. Isaiah relates it abruptly, in the third person, with no introduction — just an announcement about what the voice had said.

And “he” (whoever he is: Isaiah, John the Baptist…) answers, “What shall I cry?” and it struck me that the burden to preach preceded any thought of what might be said. I have preached like that many times and it has been the absolute best preaching I have ever done. I have no idea what I will say when I open my mouth, but suddenly the message appears, fresh and relevant.

The message given here is one of hopelessness. It uses images of grass and flowers to explore the frailty and transience of man, and his complete lack of hope to stand before an almighty God whose standards of holiness are inescapable. This theme is also explored in the New Testament, where it expands on the hope expressed in the last verse here. For all our frailty, as Peter says, we can be “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

Today’s Economic Forecast

11/10/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

More bad news out of the financial sector today, as Goldman Sachs reported that although orders of durable goods were up 3% over the last quarter, those orders, due to a filing error, were placed in a back room under a bag containing Pork Belly Futures — ruining the orders and causing a downturn in the short-term manufacturing market.

This news was especially troubling on the heels of an announcement that Sweet Light Crude Oil had risen $8.75 per barrel to close at $182.50 for spring delivery. Medium, Dark and Extra-Roast Sweet Crude have fallen in late trading today while Mocha Latte No-Foam Skinny-Boy Crude remained steady at $167 per barrel.

In other Wall Street news, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke found himself in an uncomfortable position today, when he announced another ¼ point drop in the Fed’s major interest rate today, only to have reporters point out that the rate was at 3.25% in February and has been cut a total of 8.75 points since. An embarrassed Bernanke admitted that since the rate is used to determine the interest banks charge each other, and no bank is currently “stupid enough” to loan money to another bank, the rate is “at best, a theoretical exercise.”

When pressed to identify the actual status of the rate, Bernanke said, in effect, that since the average person in America has no idea what the heck happens on Wall Street, he simply makes sporadic announcements in the hope that they will somehow stimulate the economy.

Finally, Alan Greenspan appeared before Congress today and admitted that his policies over the past two decades were fatally flawed in ways that he is just now realizing.

“We thought that banks would police themselves when it came to subprime lending practices,” Greenspan said. “We never dreamed they would bow to federal regulations that required them to make bad loans, in bad neighborhoods, to people with no visible means to repay the debts.”

When asked about the wisdom of assuming that people could buy a house with no money down and no regular paycheck, then somehow pay the money back in a timely fashion, he quoted a line from the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness — I thought turkeys could fly!”

Let Freedom Ring!

11/6/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ”˜We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.\’ ”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whatever Barack Obama was on Monday, today he is my president. I know that many of us — and by “us,” I mean conservatives and Republicans — watched the results of the election with a sense of dread, borne either by the fear of what a liberal president might do to the “right to life” cause, or the terrifying shadows of campaign rhetoric that somehow Obama will turn out to be a Muslim extremist or an agent for socialist change in America. But I think America is bigger than the sum of all those fears, real and imagined.

We must not let our short-term political disappointments cloud our senses and rob us of what should be a time of great rejoicing. I read through the text of King’s “Dream” speech this morning, and I have to say it gave me cold chills. In a way, it set my heart rejoicing. He noted that he had been asked, “When will you (the devotees of civil rights) be satisfied?” His answer was to quote the book of Amos: when “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

It reminded me of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, when he wondered aloud if the horrible war they were fighting was God\’s judgment on slavery, and noted: “Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3000 years ago, so still it must be said: “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

I cannot help but rejoice at the setting to rights of this nation’s past history of injustice. Perhaps it is because I live in the South, where the wound still aches in the sneers and smart remarks of my fellow white companions. Perhaps it is because I still remember the day I used the “N-word” — a word I had heard from my father many times — on the lone black girl at State Street School in Watertown, NY.

I remember how she followed me all over the school yard, smoldering anger in her eyes as I ran away. She never caught me, but the janitor, Mr. Allen, did. And when he found out what I had said, he slammed me against the wall and told me to never use that word again.

He was a white man. It was the first time I had ever seen a white man stand up for a terrified and helpless black child. It was the first time I saw that what I was learning at home from my father might not be right.

I rejoice that hopefully today 250 years of slavery is answered — every lash, every drop of blood — and that indeed “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Why Hillary Clinton — no, Barack Obama — Will Be Our Next President

11/5/2008, 8:00 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published November 2007, and resubmitted October 31, 2008.

No, I don’t like her him. No, I would never support her him. Yes, I really believe she will be our next president.

Why do I think this?

First, it’s the Democrats’ turn. One of the best practical jokes I was ever a part of involved a camper trailer, me, a massive former football star, a small musician/ladies’ man, and several children. I put the kids in the trailer and worked out signals, so that when Henry (the small guy) lifted the tongue of the camper while I moved the stump to level it, the kids scurried to the back, making it easy for him to lift. But when Tim (the big guy) tried, I had them scurry to the front, making it impossible to lift. With the wheels as a fulcrum, 5 or 6 small kids made the job either easy or impossible — tricking Tim was great fun.

The weight, I believe, is shifting back to the Democrats. The strongest candidate we can muster won’t be able to overcome even the feeble challenge of a liberal female inexperienced candidate.

People in this nation seem to love the underdog, and they get tired of the same people being in power — especially when those people promised they would “remember you” when they got there, but quickly forgot, amid their newfound life of luxury. Remember the right-wing revolution? The Contract with America? People gave conservatives the presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time in a bazillion years, and we were going to reform lobbying and campaign finance, set term limits, and fix every other advantage held by the inside-the-Beltway boys? Yeah, they slacked off on those promises and never did get around to reforming all that’s wrong with our national government.

*loud whistle* “TIME! DEMOCRATS! YOU’RE UP NEXT!”

But it’s not just that, it’s also the economy again. It’s kind of like having only two grocery stores in town — when you get sick of the one you shop at now, you go back to the one you left eight years ago. It’s bound to happen. Prices go up everywhere, but you still go back to the old store.

I know no one is saying we’re in a recession, but the man on the street can sense these things long before the big shots admit it’s happening. Gasoline affects every other sector of the economy. Everybody needs transportation to get back and forth to work; everyone has to get their product from point A to point B. Everyone I know is struggling paycheck to paycheck. Every business owner I know is looking at a bad year. Our business did $1.2 million last year, but we won’t come close to a million this year. Like it or not, people are ready for change.

Then there’s the war. It was the right thing to do; it’s still the right thing to do, but it’s draining away revenue we don’t have, and creating a huge deficit again. Right or wrong, people vote with their wallets, and right now, those wallets are leaning to the left. There’s no one out there I can see who will turn them back.

And that’s the last reason. There is no conservative Republican candidate generating the type of interest needed to energize the Christian vote. You may think I’m crazy, but I know Christians who voted for Bill Clinton when he ran for re-election. Four years of his shenanigans, and still they voted for him.

When I hear people here in Alabama, a solidly conservative Republican stronghold, entertaining the possibility of another Clinton Obama administration — and hinting that it might not be so bad, I think the tide has turned.

Presidential Haiku Prediction 4

11/3/2008, 2:50 pm -- by | No Comments

Obama rises
Victorious with Biden
Dorks have won the day

Meka Has Fallen!

10/23/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

Meka has fallen. For those of you unfamiliar with Meka, she is the minor deity of considerable girth who reigns over the convenience store where I buy my coffee and newspaper everyday. She sits behind the counter, on a high throne that, to the uninitiated, appears to be a simple barstool. She rules the coffee maker and the racks of honey buns; she dispenses alcohol and tobacco products to the throngs of adoring devotees. All things considered, her reign has been a good one.

She arrived about a year ago, and her time has been marked by a magnanimous beneficence that had been greatly lacking in her predecessor. When I buy the USA Today and a cup of coffee each day, my total comes to 75 cents. If you know anything about the world of convenience stores, you know that the paper alone costs 75 cents. I’m not sure whether I get the coffee or the newspaper free, but I like the arrangement.

When Meka is not there, the owner charges me $1.25 for the same combo. On the rare day when they are both there, Meka charges me $1.50. I never flinch when this happens, not wanting to bring any ill fortune on her. Meka giveth and Meka taketh away. Blessed is Meka.

Her predecessor was known as the Elephant Woman, not because of her size, but because of her short, compact stature, and the general grayness that seemed to infuse her entire appearance. She reminded me of a character from Babar. Before her, there was a red-haired girl of gothic bent, whose name I don\’t recall, but who loved to talk about her pet squirrel Ralphie. At the time, oddly enough, we had a pet squirrel named Billy, and so there was common ground.

There was never a doubt about who was in charge during Meka’s reign. There is a license plate-sized placard behind the counter with the words “PERSON IN CHARGE,” and every day, “Meka” was written there in large red letters. And although I cannot prove it scientifically, things have been better under her rule. Slothman Cabdriver has not blocked my coffee access in months, his slow stirs costing me precious minutes so I pull into work at 8:02, not 7:59. I also have not been accosted by panhandlers lately. I like Meka.

All good things must come to an end, though. When I entered the store Monday morning, the sign loudly proclaimed: “PERSON IN CHARGE — Jesus, honey!”

So Meka was gone, but how could I be dismayed? I was shocked and elated; all I could do was ask the owner (to his utter confusion) if Jesus would still be selling beer and alcohol. I didn\’t mention the wine because I hate taking a nearly indefensible position in a debate.

To my great delight, Meka was back today, but the sign remained. She explained that she was tired of Jehovah\’s Witnesses coming into the store, “readin\’ they scriptures to folks and stuff,” so she made the change herself. Things can only get better now that Meka has yielded control of her small kingdom to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Behind the Scenes

10/16/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 2 Comments


It\’s the kind of thing that drives a coach crazy; the sort that has him sitting at a bar drinking free Salvation Army Cokes, reminiscing about what might have been. Last year, Bweinh! had a strong season, nearly winning several major awards — and then, during the offseason, busted the salary cap by re-signing several free agents, among them Tom.

“We originally signed Tom out of college; his numbers in the combine were incredible, off the charts really,” said Steve, coach, general manager, and owner of the fledgling website. “He had a great rookie year and signed at the league minimum, but we knew arbitration would nail us, so we signed him to a big contract over the offseason.”

Tom had a strong training camp and started the season with a bang — but then he was injured in a freak accident. Said Steve: “He did some great clashes for us last season, and we were going to move him to left guard, taking over some of the more liberal clash positions from MCB — but then he wrote that little blurb for the new ‘bwog’ feature . . . and the rest was history.”

The blurb, of course, was the subtle, yet uproariously humorous PT Cruiser quote, by far one of the funniest items in the two-week period. But disaster struck when Tom dislocated the tip of his index finger polishing the sentence; a relief writer was called in to finish the last few letters. The next day, he was flown to Sloan-Kettering to be examined by nationally renowned finger experts, and the news wasn\’t good.

“There was more trauma than anyone realized at the time, actually some damage to the nail, causing it to discolor as it has grown out,” Steve noted. “Not only that, but it was extremely painful, which was, uh, the real problem.”

By “the real problem,” of course he means the rumor that in treating his injury, Tom has become addicted to the painkiller Advil, complicating his return to the site. When reached for comment, Tom spoke of needing to “return to the lab,” refusing to answer any questions about ibuprofen dependency.

They say it’s lonely at the top, and no one knows that better than the coach: juggling lines, redrawing plays on the fly, and wondering who will next land on injured reserve. Next week, we’ll look at center MCB — who recently changed his name to MB, but has yet to get league permission to wear it on his jersey. Last year he got off to a quick start, but his offseason marriage has forced him to be placed on the “physically unable to perform” list.

Toyota Pre Runner

10/10/2008, 3:51 pm -- by | No Comments

I got behind a Toyota Pre Runner today in traffic. Is that like a Four Runner that hasn’t hit puberty yet?

Where Do They Come From?

10/9/2008, 5:08 pm -- by | No Comments

I saw a guy today walking at an angle, employing a quick and purposeful stride that brought him off the shoulder of the road and out into the path of my car. Seconds before I got there, he looked up at me with shock and horror — as though he had never before encountered an automobile in any of his previous forays out into the world.

He stepped back and watched in utter amazement as my car and a pickup truck sped by; he stood and watched us for the longest time as we drove on. Where did he come from? Was he raised by wolves? How could he not be expecting traffic on a busy road in the middle of the day?

People like that puzzle me.

One More Song

10/9/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

I\’ve had a song stuck in my head for a long time now. It\’s an old song — I don\’t know how old, maybe 4,000 years or so. It\’s from the Bible, Psalm 137, and it was written by a Jew carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. I’ve never heard the tune and I don\’t even know all the words, but every time I read the Psalms, it catches me again, like a burning bush, an enigma I cannot turn away from.

It’s about a musician among the captives who sat down by the river and wept when he reached Babylon. The Babylonian soldiers taunted him, asking for a song about his homeland Zion, but he flung his harp into a willow tree along the bank of the river and refused to sing. All he could think about was his devastated life and revenge toward the ones who had hurt him. He was in no mood to sing.

But somehow, with it all so fresh in his mind, he managed to write one more song.

In that song, he simply poured out his anguish and anger, with one bright spot: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth ”” if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” In the midst of his anger and bitterness, his complete brokenness, he reaffirmed his destiny. His purpose — his whole reason to exist — was bound up in Jerusalem, and he could never forget that.

I read that in 1948, when Israel won its independence, Jewish refugees streamed into the new nation by the thousands, fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust and the persecution that had followed them throughout Europe. They came by train, by boat, by plane; when they arrived at the coast, they took whatever transport they could find to get to Jerusalem. One convoy of rusty trucks rolled into Jerusalem with that verse on the front bumper of the lead vehicle: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem…” If that man’s words, written some 4,000 years before, could still inspire the hopeless in those times, it’s no wonder that they can still reach me on this dark, rainy Alabama day in early October, 2008.

How can we read that psalm and fail to understand that what we do matters? Every time we pick up a pen to write, or post to a blog or a journal, or pick up a guitar to play and sing, we must surely know that whatever we do for God’s kingdom is eternal! Even if all you can do is recount the grief of your last setback, and affirm that nothing will keep you from God\’s plan for your life — do it! Whatever it is that you do in the Kingdom, it matters for eternity.

Pick up your pen; write another post. Pick up your guitar. Sing one more song.

Playing Chicken with God

10/5/2008, 8:30 pm -- by | No Comments

I don\’t know how if this is true today, but when I was younger, we played “chicken” a lot. Two people would hurtle toward each other on bikes (or cars) to see who would swerve at the last second to avoid the crash. I played the bike version — and another type, where two of us pushed our forearms together and dropped a lit cigarette between them, to see who pulled away first.

I\’m 47 now, and when I play chicken these days, I play with God. I never start the game; He does. And to be honest with you, I hate to play — it’s nerve-wracking.

It always starts the same way. I have bills due, and I am either owed a commission or I have a large sale that I can close. But then the deal or the check, whatever it is I need, gets hung up somehow, but I find I can still do something shady to get my money. Maybe it’s telling a white lie, maybe it’s fudging — or forging — some paperwork. Either way I get the money now instead of next week.

No one gets hurt; I get my money; I lose my soul.

I\’d like to say I’ve never given in to the temptation, but at times I have. A few years ago, God started to deal with me about it when a young girl confronted me about some paperwork that had to be undone because I had lied. I was horrified, I apologized, and I repented. She was a backslidden Christian who eventually came back to the Lord and even credited the way I handled the situation for helping to turn her around. Yeah, what a great guy I am.

We’re playing chicken again this week, God and me. My boss offered to give me a commission check today if I would agree that he should forge a document we could correct on Monday. Seeing the consternation on my face, he said, “We could do it another way if it would make you feel more comfortable.”

I said, “No. I\’m not comfortable with any of this. I don\’t want anything to do with any of it,” and walked away.

So come on, God, do your best! You could have provided this on time, but instead You chose to get in your car and head right toward me, to see if I’ll swerve off the road into sin. I\’ve been here before, though, and like David said: “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” I\’ll take my chances in a head-on crash with God, rather than swerving off the path of righteousness.

P.S. — My boss just came in and told me he had decided to wait and do things right on Monday.

P.P.S. — He called me in and paid me anyway. I win again! Praise God!

A Faithful Witness

09/26/2008, 4:52 pm -- by | 1 Comment

“Poetry too is a little incarnation . . .”
C.S. Lewis

Anything that I have ever written, if it was written well, seemed to me not something I created, but rather something I uncovered. Anything possessing real beauty or wisdom is surely an absolute, which existed long before I penned the words or captured the thoughts to put on display. So it is imperative when I write to be faithful to recreate what I feel or see in my mind. It can\’t be written to appeal to a certain person or demographic. I can\’t alter what I see or feel: I can only write and re-write until it comes as close as possible to what I saw or felt.

To illustrate this point, I have always intended to write a short story, about a boy who lives by the sea and discovers a shipwreck, filled with immeasurable treasures, too heavy to bring to the surface. At first all he can do is dive down and glimpse them, but in time, he trains himself to hold his breath for a longer time, until he can stay long enough to memorize their appearance. Eventually he is able to reproduce the wondrous treasures in pictures to show the village.

The crisis would come when people begin to buy the pictures, and he is tempted to listen to suggestions for improving the appeal of the pictures for others. Through the struggle, he would ultimately come to understand that he must stay faithful to what he sees — although no one else had developed their lungs and braved the depths to view the treasures, at some point they might, and he would be found to be a liar. He would be found to have been false to what he saw; false to himself.

And that is why and how I write.

Tension and Balance

09/22/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 7 Comments

“It is the sea that shapes the sailor, and the land that shapes the sea . . .”
Rich Mullins, “The Breaks”

While we were checking out of Wal-Mart on Saturday, the subject of Sarah Palin came up, and I was astounded to find out that my son-in-law had no idea who she was. He had not even heard of her yet. I guess all that really means is that ”” as pervasive as coverage of her has been ”” it has not yet filtered down into the virtual environment of World of Warcraft.

Perhaps it\’s not so astounding. It started a good discussion about politics and presidential candidates, though, and eventually he asked me to explain the difference between liberals and conservatives. After considering and discarding various statements, I decided to fall back on the standard explanation that liberals basically favor more government involvement in our lives, while conservatives seek less.

I know that is an oversimplified statement of the opposing views, but in our country it is pretty accurate. Both views are necessary. Obviously no one wants to live without government oversight and regulation of society. I like to know that the bridge I\’m driving over has been engineered and built to some kind of safety standards, and I actually welcome government interference when my neighbors are partying in their driveway till the wee hours of the morning and I can ask a policeman to go by and have them turn the music down.

On the other hand, while some people are talking about the government hitting the oil companies with outrageous windfall profit taxes, I ask myself, “Would I want the government to step in when I have a good month at work and take another 30% of my profits ”” in addition to what I already paid?”

No, I wouldn\’t. I don\’t want them to have so much control over things that they stifle productivity and initiative by removing the rewards that come with hard work. That thinking has always led to failure in communist or socialist societies.

The chief impetus for civilization is the ability to pool our resources and create a system that gives us access to services and benefits that we could never afford on our own: libraries, courts, police, military. To accomplish that, we surrender some of our wealth by paying taxes. It also makes it possible to care for the poor among us. Our nation functions best by maintaining a good balance between the two opposing views; the tension keeps us from going off the deep end in either direction.

Liberals force conservatives like me to do a better job of helping the poor, protecting the environment, and being proactive on health care and other social issues. We force them to understand how a free market system works to generate the wealth necessary to perform the costly services that they want society to provide. In this country, we also serve to remind them that there is a God who has standards. We are committed to seeing those standards reflected in our national psyche, even when they run afoul of the liberal ideas on abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues.

We ended up having a good conversation, and I feel confident that my son-in-law at least has an inkling of who Sarah Palin is. And who knows: maybe now the Republicans have a shot at the 17 World of Warcraft electoral votes in November.

Statistics and Lives

09/11/2008, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

I read an article that noted a surprising consequence of high gasoline prices: a drop in US traffic deaths, producing the lowest figure in nearly a decade. 42,708 people died in traffic accidents in 2006; the total dropped to 41,059 in 2007. 1,649 fewer people died last year, in part because gas prices rose, people drove less, and fatal accidents occurred at a diminished rate. Statistics can be so cold and calculated.

It isnʼt a crisis of faith that prompts me to think about this. I know God holds us in His hands — I’m the first to agree that we enter and leave this world on His timetable — but something about the thought of whimsical economic forces defining the boundaries of my existence baffles me. After all, you or me — either of us — could be one of those 1,649, now still free to touch and affect others in myriad untraceable ways. I guess it gets all mixed in with chaos theory, the “butterfly effect.” A dictator flaps his mouth, and on the other side of the world, 1,649 more people stay alive.

Why do I care so much about this? 43,510 people died on the highway in 2005; that’s another statistic. But one of them was more than a statistic to us. His name was Bobby, and he lived in Florida. He was 78; he had a wife; he died in an accident because my wife didnʼt see his car and pulled out in front of him.

I got to pray for him and tell him, through tears of grief, how sorry she was. We shared an emergency room together — Bobby with internal injuries, my wife with a fractured neck.

Itʼs been almost three years now, but sometimes the shadow of that grief passes over my wife again, and I can see it. A scene from some movie, or an offhand comment, can bring the whole thing back, and I try to comfort her. I remind her that there were extenuating circumstances. The intersection was under construction: barrels, equipment, confusing signs. Her accident was the second that day at the intersection, the sixth in two weeks. Someone was rushing her, vigorously motioning from the far side of the intersection for her to hurry up. She looked twice, both ways, and saw no one. The gentleman was speeding.

I remind her that there was an investigation, and no negligence was found. She was not speeding, talking on her cell phone, or using drugs or alcohol; in fact, in over 30 years of driving, she never had so much as a single speeding ticket on her record.

I remind her that it was an accident.

It passes eventually, and sheʼs okay again. Itʼs just life, and if Iʼve learned anything in life, Iʼve learned that everyone has to learn to live with pain. Every family has a statistic or a skeleton that can jump out of the closet at any moment and reopen old wounds.

It just seems so capricious; so arbitrary. Gas hits $4 a gallon and 1,649 people live who would have died.

But 2005 is history; unchangeable.

« Previous PageNext Page »