It’s tough to get beyond the fear and negativity that the world throws us each day. At times, it seems relentless. When you add in the commercial pressures and the loneliness that the Christmas season often brings, it can be even tougher to see any abundance in our lives let alone be thankful. Every one of us get caught up in the busy-ness and urgency of the day and, little by little, can lose sight of who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing. Even if what we’re doing is serving and helping others.
For the past 2 years, I have been a part of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons (poorly named, I know), which has fed my calling to advance the agenda of inclusion to ensure all persons are valued and accepted. Last Thursday, December 3rd, marked the UN’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities, an important day for the Council, needless to say. All week the weather forecasters had been predicting a messy day but when it finally arrived, it didn’t look that bad, at least not until the evening. I decided to take the day off from work and make the hour’s journey north. Having the opportunity to serve the thousands who haven’t yet found their voice and place in the world is one of the few things that can get me out of bed.
The Drive to make a difference
The day was a productive one that began with a symbolic yet important meeting with the Council members. This was followed by the Premier’s summit to brainstorm employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for persons with disabilities. It was a perfect forum for me to spread some of Ben’s (my son) teachings, to build more relationships, and to glad-hand and schmooze with politicians and other decision makers. In reality, it was a great opportunity to spread the message of inclusion and emphasize that every life is of equal value. Politicians aside, no matter how you look at it, spreading this message is always worthwhile and is truly God’s work.
The day ended with a direct, one-hour discussion with the Premier himself, which was very positive, encouraging and hopeful. Through all of these events, I really didn’t pay much attention to the weather conditions. But I should have.
Before getting on the highway, I stopped to fill up. The last thing I wanted to do was run out of gas on the highway, in the winter, in the dark. The light snow in the air turned more intense and the temperature had dropped even closer to the freezing mark. The roads were a mix of slush, ice pellets, and wet snow which concealed areas of black ice. At best, the driving conditions would be classified as poor but the traffic flowed surprisingly well, with, large 18-wheelers rushing past me as if it were a summer day.
When I turned off the divided highway onto the two-lane stretch to Saint John, the off ramp was packed with bits of hail and ice. I slowed to make sure I made the turn. Just ahead, another driver was not so lucky. The tire tracks clearly showed where this red VW Passat had skidded off the shoulder into a deep ditch, its headlights projecting upward, and wipers still in motion. For a moment, I pondered stopping to help the occupants, recalling how a complete stranger did the same for us a few months ago when we blew a tire, and how grateful we were. But I kept going, realizing that I may suffer the same fate if I couldn’t get my car stopped in time.
The further I drove, the harder the precipitation fell, making the driving even more precarious. Darkness was fast approaching which made the visibility just about nil. I aimed for the clearest spots of the lane but it was getting harder to do so.
Fifteen minutes down the highway, I came to a gradual bend in the road. I slowed down to make the turn but the vehicle didn’t respond. I felt the tires lose their grip. In an instant, I lost all control and saw myself heading for the ditch. It didn’t matter that I had taken my time, that I had done all of the right things. I was going to crash! I felt an intense rush of adrenaline. My heart started racing, and it was hard to breathe.
I was alone. The highway was barren. It was dark, snowy, icy. It was 3 weeks before Christmas. I was truly scared that I could actually die. I felt so vulnerable. A terrifying feeling. I was so focused on attending those meetings that nothing else seemed to matter. And it wasn’t because my employer told me to go. This stuff truly gets me out of bed. But now it seemed like I had made a huge mistake in judgement. It’s not like I didn’t know the storm was coming. I still had so many things I wanted to do, so many things that were finally going right in my life. This couldn’t be happening.
All those thoughts flashed through my mind in the 2 seconds it took me to regain control of the car. There was no crash, no spinout, no skid marks. The wheels were back on track. I heaved an incredibly huge sigh like never before and focused intently on getting home.
Twenty more tortuous minutes passed and I approached the crest of Petersville Hill. I had thought that if I could make it to here, the halfway point, the rest of the drive home would be easy or at least I’d be close enough to home that someone could rescue me. Crossing the peak, I noticed that there no snow was accumulating on the shoulder and the precipitation was all rain. It was like crossing some imaginary fall/winter boundary. I knew I was going to be OK.
I Just Love My Life!
As I turned into my driveway, I paused and breathed deeply. I was actually shaking. When I entered the kitchen and saw Ben, who knew nothing of what I had just experienced, I almost broke down. In that moment, I felt truly blessed. All of the heartache, stress, seizures, surgeries, sickness, ER visits, chronic fatigue, anxiety, fear, and financial burdens didn’t matter. I made it home. It was as if I was being told there is still much work to do to help others find their voice and place in the world, including Ben.
It was also a call to slow down, to focus more, to be more intentional, to be less distracted, to reduce my frustration level, to (re)prioritize. All things I knew but couldn’t put into practice well enough.
Later that evening, a group of us attended David Myles’ Christmas Concert. This guy is so laid back. The whole evening was so relaxing. So easy. Sitting in the theatre, I felt a peace that I don’t experience very often and a feeling of abundance that I could be allowed to be experiencing this. That I was given this time, this evening, to enjoy this. It was a gift that I wanted to last forever. At that moment I realized just how much I loved my life!
As we left the theatre, the weather turned nasty. The same storm that nearly forced me off the road was showing itself again. It wasn’t as ominous this time. I wasn’t nervous. I told myself that every day I must write down how abundant my life really is. How I need to call out every day what I’m thankful for. And how everything will flow from there.
I realized that this is the one true way to get beyond the fear and negativity, the commercial pressures and the loneliness that the Christmas season often brings: be thankful for all of the things in your life.
No one’s life is free of pain or suffering but it is abundant if you really look for it. Everyone’s life is. Open yourself up to seeing this, to welcoming this, and it will happen. Don’t get hung up on all of the things that aren’t good with you or your family because that’s only part of the story, and those will never go away. Take all of the good things you have, put them all together, and use them to create a future that is bigger than the past.