We’ve all been there, you look down, see the gas gauge nearing E and say…”I can make it”. We rely on a little bit of faith and a little bit of luck. When you’re a risk taker like I am, sometimes that luck runs out and all you have left is faith. Last week I left the station and headed out towards Peoria. I glanced down saw the gas gauge running low, but the reading on the dash said I had 22 miles. “Plenty” I thought “I’ll just stop in Carlock and get some gas.” Sounds like a great plan until I am stuck in the construction on I-74 right outside of Carlock. Just reading the mile markers…3 more miles, the gas gauge reads 14 miles, we’re good. Crawling along, two more miles, gauge reads 11 miles. “Hey what happened to those three miles?” Finally, one more mile, I am going to make it just fine, the gauge reads 9 miles….EXIT CLOSED. “Oh *$&&(#&($^#)@!!!” Now what? Goodfield is 7 miles away and the gauge reads 8 miles. The faith that I had in the gas gauge read out is entirely in question. I have to make it or I am walking. I don’t know anyone around Goodfield, there is no one that can come and pick me up. It is make it or hike it. I did my best to coast as much as possible. All the gas saving hacks I have ever read are coming back. I turn of the heat, I only accelerate slowly, heck I even turned off the radio for some reason. I was doing anything I thought might help me make it. Finally coasting into the Shell in Goodfield as the gauge reads zero, the needle below the E. I made it. The reason I am telling you this is not because I gambled and won. There is a much bigger lesson I learned from this. How far a mile is depends on if your walking it or driving it.
As a human race we tend to try to sort, categorize, rate and rank ourselves. We are always trying to prove ourselves to be “better” than someone else based upon arbitrary standards that really have no founding in reality. Someone has a better car, a better job, a better family, a better life than you. Really? By what standards? Are these rankings you placed yourself in based upon YOUR standards? Does driving a Mercedes make you a better person? Does making more money make your life sweeter? Does that family that you admire in church or on social media have issues? Are we judging ourselves against other peoples dreams, goals, accomplishments? I know that I don’t have to answer those questions for you because we all know that these things aren’t what makes a life fulfilling. Everyone on that interstate was driving those same miles, no one knew that in my car I was panicking. They just thought I was driving like an old man, or I was an idiot or whatever. They didn’t know my circumstances but, they made judgments anyway. In life we all drive the same proverbial miles, we all go through the same stuff, love, loss, joys, sadness, highs, lows, victories and failures. But for some reason when our lives metaphorical “gas tank” is full we pass judgement on those who may be struggling to get just one more mile. Even though I didn’t have to walk this time, next time I may not be so lucky. So as we look forward to the holiday season when people that are struggling might be struggling more, take a minute and count your blessings instead of judging someone that just has to make it one more mile, one more day until payday, one more sober hour…. The world is dark enough, we don’t need more negativity.
I truly believe that there are moments that define us as a person. I also believe that most of the time we miss those moments or think about doing the right thing way too late. Wondering while tucked in bed at midnight, if you should have stopped to help that woman that was broken down on the side of the road does nothing. Last night, I had to stop in Goodfield to get gas again, no drama this time for me but, when I pulled up I saw a woman at the pump next to me pulling out her dollars and counting out change trying to figure out how much gas will get her that next mile. I tried not to make it obvious that I was looking at her because no one wants an audience when you are struggling. I finished up, went inside and paid for my gas…and pump 6. I never talked to her or turned around as I was walking out and the gas station attendant told her “that man just paid for your gas.” I just got in and drove off. I am blessed to be able to pay it forward but that wasn’t always the case, there were many times that I was walking that mile.