Monday, September 8, 2014

When You Have Two Flat Tires, Not One


Years ago I was on the interstate driving home after meeting with a friend. Suddenly I heard a loud “boom” and immediately it felt like my car was traveling on a cobblestone road. Quickly pulling to the roadside, I found the right rear tire totally flat. More than flat – shredded. (Have you ever had shredded wheat cereal for breakfast? That’s what the tire looked like.)

One flat tire is troublesome
enough, but two at once?
After replacing the destroyed tire with the spare tire “donut” provided by the manufacturer, I started out, expecting to complete my return trip. But the car began shuddering as much as before. So I again steered off the road and discovered the right front tire also in shreds. What? Flat tires are common, but how often do two go flat simultaneously? I hadn’t seen anything in the road, but something large and very sharp must have cut both tires severely.

Nothing like turning a smooth, carefree ride back to the office into chaos. It gave whole new meaning to the term, “tire-less worker.”

Since vehicles don’t come with two donuts, I called a wrecker service to haul my car to the next exit and find someplace to replace both tires. My unexpected travel dilemma required not one solution, but two.

I was reminded of this experience recently by my friend, Randy Nabors. In his own blog post entitled, “Sometimes A Car Has More Than One Flat Tire,” he comments on circumstances surrounding the shooting and subsequent protests in Ferguson, Mo. I’ll not get into what Randy has to say, but it’s insightful. If you’d like to read it, here’s the link: http://randysrag.blogspot.com/2014/08/sometimes-car-has-more-than-one-flat.html

Applying this observation in a broader sense, life’s problems often have multiple facets that can’t be resolved in one easy step. Poverty is one example. Some people insist the solution is simply raising the minimum wage. Increase hourly pay a few dollars, problem solved. Nice theory.

This certainly would provide relief, at least for some, but issues surrounding the poor – and poverty in general – are numerous, complex, and often multi-generational. Deeply rooted problems stemming from poor education, declining parental influence, lack of preparation and training for jobs, even a lack of positive role models, individuals who’ve risen above impoverished circumstances to provide hope and inspiration for others. Simply boosting hourly pay rates could help, but as a long-range answer it would be like applying a Band-Aid to a cancerous growth.

The “sometimes there’s more than one flat tire” principle applies to many pressing issues facing our society and the world today: Health care, escalating violence, energy concerns, war, disease, equal opportunity, economic disparity, bigotry, and others. In the home, resolving marital strife, the challenge of raising and guiding children to become productive adults, addressing financial problems, and other problems also can often seem like incurring multiple flat tires on a car at the same time.

So what should we do, individually and as a people? Shrug our shoulders and declare the problems are too many, too complicated, so everyone should just look out for themselves? This seems to be the attitude of some, but we know it’s not the right response. And while the easy, quick fix often can’t eradicate deeply rooted problems, any attempt to provide help is better than no efforts to offer assistance.

James 4:17 states, Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” So we have a responsibility to do what we can. To recognize a problem, but choose to do nothing when we have the capacity to help in some way, is sinful and abhorrent to God, according to the Bible.

At the same time, isolated attempts to address problems, without the concerted efforts and contributions of other able-bodied and resourced people, usually amount to the proverbial “drop in the bucket.” For persistent problems defying the quick-fix, the book of James offers more advice: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Knowledge is good and important. But it requires wisdom to determine how best to sift through the vast storehouse of knowledge available and discern how best to apply it, aiming to solve or at least alleviate problems rather than intensify and prolong them.

No comments: