The Ticket (AM 1310) dubbed it “Snowmageddon 2011.” A record-breaking 3-4 inches of snow in a select few parts of the dfw metroplex which mercilessly ground productivity to a halt on the morning of January 10. You could almost hear creation groaning as the temperature dipped to a startling 31 degrees. Who could have predicted such a devastating occurrence?
It took 2 hours and 20 minutes (that’s 8,400 seconds) to travel 18 miles from I-20 to SMU that morning. When I made it to Dallas County by 7am, I hoped I’d be okay. Yet, as soon as I saw the cars literally parked on the Hwy 67 overpass, I knew there was no hope.
I had to make a snap decision (survival situations of this magnitude require quick thinking). I knew that this decision, much like a shipwreck survivor choosing whether to seek shelter or remain on the beach, could be the difference between life and a slow, miserable death. I knew what I had to do.
I would have to resign myself to being late for class.
Once the decision was made, my surroundings immediately appeared less hostile. I realized that the glowing eyes in the bushes were just a curious raccoon, the large shadow monster was a tree blowing in the wind and the strange sound snapping twigs was probably just a chupacabra...
I’m not livestock, so it probably wouldn’t attack me and drain my blood.
I realized that that the millions, nay billions, of similarly stranded travelers were also in the process of making, or not making, similar decisions. One man angrily got out of his company van and began raking the snow from his hood as though each handful were a dreadful Communist deserving of such treatment. The veins sticking out in his neck and newly discovered color of red on his face were indicators that he had not chosen wisely and death was setting in.
A young woman in a Jetta was dancing (all the more impressive because she still had on her seatbelt) and singing along with her powerful Volks Wagon stock stereo system. Somehow she also reached deep into her inner well of talent and found time (while still dancing) to check facebook on her iPhone...funny what you can see when traveling at a blinding 5 mph. While the veins in her neck were in remarkably better shape than the poor dying man, I hope the addition of facebook didn’t come back to haunt her.
A couple middle-age women in a Nissan Sentra were engaged in a lively conversation, their laughter nearly audible over the relaxing sounds of my AM sports talk-show. I was glad for them that they were not stranded alone. A companion completely changes these survival situations. Plus, their carpooling was saving the environment even while the environment was trying to destroy us all. Good for them.
The young man in multi-colored car I couldn’t identify seemed to like the Jetta-Facebook-Dancing-Queen’s idea of listening to soothing music...however, as he sang along his face did not look very peaceful. I think it was some of that angry music. To each his own, I guess.
Then there was the elderly man, gripping tightly to his steering wheel. He didn’t seem to mind how slow we were going, in fact, I think it suited him just fine. This situation wasn’t going to be tough for him to weather...Way to go sir!
Another lady was quite upset when a 15 passenger van decided to move over and share her lane - didn’t our parents teach us that sharing was a good thing? I could actually hear her screaming at him over the sound of her horn. Odd to watch. A little like watching that guy get run over by the snail-paced steamroller on Austin Powers.
Interestingly enough, the driver of the van seemed to have much better manners. He just smiled and waved, as if to say, “I forgive you for saying those mean things to me.” What a great guy.
In addition to these noteworthy travel companions, there was another terror traversing our wintry hell-scape. There were zombies. Actual zombies driving motor-vehicles. I’ve seen the movies, I know what to look for. Glazed over eyes staring into nothingness, unnatural movements attempting to mimic the routines of live before death. And of course the unquenchable hunger for brains. Admittedly, that one's a little harder to notice until they come after you...but I’m sure it was there.
These zombies didn’t look around, didn’t smile and didn’t frown. They were just shells of their former humanity. I was impressed that they still had the fine motor skills (get it?) to start and stop their cars’ forward progress without hitting the vehicle in front of them. But there was no life in their eyes...just an empty stare.
Victor Frankl, a Jewish prisoner in the WWII Nazi death camps said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that the one thing our captors can never take from us is our ability to choose how we will respond to our situation. No one can make us angry at the traffic (or the snow on our hood), that is an ability that resides solely within. Our ability to choose our response to a situation may or may not impact our survival, but it will certainly impact the time we have until our end is realized.
I wonder how often we mindlessly hand over this power to the situation? When we abdicate our God-given ability to respond, very rarely are we rewarded with a healthy perspective from our captors - be they human or circumstance.
Without an intentional process of introspection it is likely that we will continue on auto-pilot at best. And yet Paul, through the example of Christ, teaches us that even in suffering we can choice to rejoice because we know (among other things) that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. I pray that today we will fix our eyes on Christ so that Snowmageddon or whatever ill lies around the next corner, will have no power over our response. Hopefully it will protect us from the zombies too.