Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Neighborly Motorist Gets a Nice Surprise

Jason Howerton reports on the music fans who stopped on the way to a concert to offer help to a stranded cyclist...who turned out to be the star of the show:


In this context I might as well share an update about my car-free life. Last week, after reading this post, I commented that God had given us "Modern Conveniences" and the common sense to use them judiciously not wastefully. I don't know whether anyone else even thought of the historical point I had in mind. Crossing the Rocky Mountains in high summer is still an adventure. It used to be such an adventure that a whole genre of adventure stories were based on the reminiscences of the few humans who'd survived it.

As we--individuals, nations, the whole world--start to look ahead and see an end to the petroleum reserves that twentieth-century American culture was based on wasting, we start to anticipate a crisis and think about ways to avoid one. Require all motor fuel to contain some ethanol? Destroy the bedrock that's holding us up above sea level in order to get at more gas? Drive a "hybrid" car, feel good about yourself because some small part of its energy consumption comes from sunshine, then spend a lot of time having it towed by heavy diesel-burning trucks because the new technology in its engine is not all that reliable yet? What about...wow, radical!...just not driving when we can walk?

Radical though it is, that last option happens to appeal to me; I'm active and healthy enough not to mind walking, and I also happen to have an astigmatism that causes me to hate driving. And yes, I do expect that, if and when you're driving in the same direction I'm going, and you see me walking, and you want me to consider you a friend, you'll offer to share your car. I ask people to drive only when there's some special reason why it's necessary. I'd prefer that more people overcame prejudices and walked across town, as I do--it'd make the roads safer, it'd make our business district livelier, it'd help a lot of us fight obesity and hypertension--but I don't argue with anybody's claim that they need a car to make any given trip. If you're going to convert that pint of petroleum reserves into carbon monoxide, though, you could at least share the benefits of it. I don't like breathing fumes.

Personally, I don't promise any benefits to those who share their vehicles with me. I don't even promise I'll accept a ride with just anybody. What I'm likely to do for people who've given me a lift depends on a lot of things: how much time and aggravation they've saved me, how far we've gone, how annoying their conversation has been, whether I have any pocket money, whether I can honestly say anything nice about their business on this web site and (if so) what they want to have said. I don't even know what I'd like to do for you until the end of the trip.

So let's just remind everybody of what the Bible says about the general idea of being hospitable rather than paranoid, even toward total strangers. "Some have received angels."

Somebody will now ask, "Do you consider yourself an angel? What about this and that other person I often see walking when I'm driving--are they angels?" Probably not. The word "angel" originally meant a message from God, and now means the bearer of such a message. Any of your neighbors--even the spooky old character who stands under the bridge waving leaves at passers-by--could potentially serve as an angel, but it's not likely. But you never know what good results may come from doing the right thing. You might share your car with a pop star you wouldn't have dared to ask for a free autograph.

Statistically, when people share their cars, or their homes or their leisure hours, the most likely probability is that they'll get into boring awkward conversations...but despite the emotional effect of TV news shows that call most attention to the least commonplace events, we're more likely to meet someone famous than we are to pick up a carjacker.