"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us… For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:18, 24-25 (NRSV)
His weathered face stood tall against the setting sun. I applied the brake of our van and slowed down at the sight. The sign in his hand read "SLOW". In his other hand he held a cane – as I glanced toward his feet, I found one foot standing on the pavement as his other pant leg was tucked up into his waist where his leg should have been. Still, he stood there, straight and tall at his post.
I lifted my hand from the steering wheel to greet him as we drew near. He smiled and nodded toward me with recognition, cane in one hand, sign in the other. In that brief moment he was gone. I looked in my rearview mirror and watched his silhouette disappear in the brilliance of the sunset.
Road Construction might be the one good thing to come from the drought, if there can be a "good" thing from what has been devastating to farmers and persons who make their living when the grass is green and the crop is growing. Still the heat has been more than a little oppressive for all of us.
I remember hearing once "that road construction workers have one of the most dangerous jobs there is," for obvious reasons. We drove on through other construction zones along the Interstate Highway. I began to reflect on this man with one leg. I wondered how he lost his leg. Was it a birth defect, had he been hit by a careless driver who did not heed his warning sign, had he lost it in a road side bomb in Afghanistan or some other military service, was he a biker who was careless in his youth?
Still, having seen him standing there, I became much more cautious and aware of my driving. We traveled on.
Each of us has other persons guiding us with signs, slowing us down, reminding us to be careful on the highways and bi-ways of life.
As this summer has shown us, there is much to fear "out there." Droughts, lightening, wildfires, damaging winds, disturbed gunmen, texting drivers, kidnappings, illnesses, pain and disappointments happen daily to each of us and those we love.
With the Olympics in full swing we also see the signs of endurance; athletes overcoming unbelievable obstacles, inspirational and emotional comebacks and many "firsts" in several events.
Over the next few weeks, college students and younger children will soon be heading to school. Police and the local media will caution us to be careful in the school zones as children walk or ride their bikes to school again this year. Neil Postman once wrote, "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see," http://lancestrate.blogspot.com/2011/03/children-are-living-messages-we-send-to.html.
We can all learn a lesson from that man with the "slow" sign in his hand. We do need to slow down; to take our time, to be aware, to care for others just as God cares for each one of us.
So, take your time out there, enjoy the changing seasons and be patient "out there" and hopefully we'll all reflect the sign of peace to all we meet.
Rev. Rick Pittenger is the Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Vermillion, home of the Monday night Welcome Table which is a free meal offered to the community on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m.