Monday, April 03, 2006
Sudden (and Lasting) Impact  

It is not very often that I get stuck in a traffic jam. Although on occasion, generally for work, I have to travel to Washington, DC, I am typically in a car with a number of my colleagues from work, and we are able to travel in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane. However, recently, I traveled by myself to DC and a got caught in a miserable traffic jam. It came at the most unexpected time because although I was driving to the nation's capitol on a workday, it was well outside the times for rush hour. The traffic jam lasted for well over 20 miles, and it gave me plenty of time to think about traffic jams.

My first thought is always that I never want to have to commute to DC on a regular basis because I could never waste that many hours every week simply sitting in a car to get to work. If I ever waver in that conviction, one simple trip to DC easily convinces me to stick to my resolution. Inevitably, no matter what day or time I travel on, the traffic is always bad. Most of the time, I am able to only observe the bad traffic from the HOV lane and not to have experience it myself.

The second thought I had was the amazing impact that a single action has on the lives of so many other people. The traffic jam I was in recently was caused by an eighteen-wheel truck somehow or other ending up stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Fortunately, no one was injured. I was not able to learn any other details from the traffic reports on the radio, but one can imagine many scenarios that resulted in the truck getting stuck. At some point, either in reaction to another driver or by his own initiative, the driver made a decision that resulted in driving off the side of the road. The impact was tremendous. Suddenly thousands of lives were impacted by this one single decision. Traffic became backed up for miles and miles. Men and women had their schedules altered. If like me, they had appointments to attend, they were suddenly sure to be late. Cell phones were picked up and calls made to inform someone that they would be late. If a driver had hoped to grab a bite to eat, he would have to change his plans and not stop and spend the money to get food in order to try to make up lost time. Perhaps the lack of food affected his concentration at his meeting, and he missed some important point that was made. He either left the meeting ignorant of the information or he asked a question which asked about something that had already been covered.

There are of course almost an infinite number of ways that the truck driver's action affected others around him. Radio stations began to report on the traffic jam. Then, of course, there were other accidents that resulted because of the new traffic pattern. Most people affected either directly or indirectly experienced annoyance at the event. (There might have been a few who were relieved because they were not really interested in going to where they were traveling.)

Now none of this is very profound. I imagine that many people have thought the same thought, and there are many others who have written about it. However, the impact on me was a reminder of how everything we do, even if we consider it insignificant, has an impact upon the here and now and also on eternity. There is no escaping our impact upon the world in which we live. Even if we decide to stay in bed to avoid the day, we are affecting our world by not being out of bed and doing something different. It is almost a bit overwhelming and alarming to think about this for too long. And when I think of being in eternity and seeing how everything I did or did not do affected the many lives of others, I can become quite concerned. There are two things I can think to do in response. The first is to thank God that He is ultimately in control and able to work through all of the successes and failures, actions and inactions of every person. The second response is to pray, especially for the grace and wisdom to do exactly what God wants me to do each day.

Posted by David at 8:03 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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