“Wrapped up in our thoughts, we can’t hear love or beauty’s song.” - Marty Ruben
"Distractions and detours dig our grave." - Kishore Bansal
Every day life affords us opportunities to enjoy great beauty. But they are fleeting and so easy to miss.
Heading back to South Carolina from the New England leg of my project, I wanted to spend a bit of time with family in Ohio. I left Cape Cod and was quickly on the turnpike that would carry me through Massachusetts and upstate New York. Being October, the foliage was on full display and I was relieved that I didn’t feel I had to stop and take photographs for an article. For once I could just relax and enjoy the natural beauty. Colorful hills rimming green valleys revealed how the leaves changed more quickly at altitude. A brilliant red maple had vines with yellow leaves interspersed, looking more beautiful than any Christmas tree I have ever seen. New England is world renowned for the brilliance of its fall foliage.
I passed through a toll booth. Another few miles was another toll booth. A half an hour and another toll booth. Then I had to get gas. I pulled in and the gas was $2.39 a gallon on the turnpike – it had been $1.99 everywhere else. Another toll booth. And the roads were not in nearly as good of shape as they were in places that had no tolls. Next I am thinking about the companies that choose to take financial advantage of a “captive audience.” I am thinking about how the interstate highway system was designed to make this country great – not line the pockets of greedy politicians and their cohorts. The foliage hadn’t changed – my plans hadn’t changed – and yet here I am in a confrontational mood while driving through one of the most beautiful spots on earth. In the span of an hour I went from feeling amazement and deep gratitude to anger.
It took me about fifteen minutes to catch myself. Then I had to laugh. I left on this journey two years ago with a tank of gas and $190. God has shown up at every turn – countless times I have been down to my last couple of dollars and have chosen to put it in an offering basket, bought a homeless person a sandwich or put it in a Ronald McDonald house collection basket. Long ago I made the decision that I no longer place my trust in money – I trust God. And God shows up every time, in ways that never cease to amaze me. If God wanted me to visit family on my way back to the Carolinas, it doesn’t matter what it cost. It would have been provided – and indeed I had the monies I needed for the trip. So why do I get upset? Why do I even begin to care about something so trivial when my needs are always met?
We are all capable of “righteous indignation,” and we are all capable of using it as a blunt instrument to bludgeon others with if we have the opportunity. But who does the club strike first? And last? And every time in between? It is me that suffers most. And here I was – for the first and perhaps only time in my life passing through the most beautiful spot on the planet this time of year blinded by ingratitude. I am glad I have matured enough to catch it quickly and was able to enjoy the rest of the scenery.
Today, may I be present.
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