He looked like he knew exactly where he was going. So I did not say a word. He was at the steering wheel, and I was in the passenger’s seat. We’d been to Concord before. On this Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I were both excited about getting there from here – our home.
But after driving just a few blocks, he suddenly blurted out a belly laugh – mostly grateful and definitely self-critical. “Ha! I was so focused on which highways and which exits (for Concord)… I forgot to think about how to get to the highway from here! Thank God for this red light…it gives me time to think!”
That remark triggered a profound lesson for me.
How often do you or I, like my husband, get so focused on the destination, or the big signposts to arrive there, that we overlook the obvious. Our current location.
Our point of departure. How do we get to the highway from here?
In our case, we never bother to attend to Step #1. How do we get from the house to the highway? We think that’s easy because it’s close to home. These are local roads. It’s our comfort zone. Often it is in our comfort that we zone out.
We were on auto-pilot in the maze of holiday traffic zipping around us until we were stopped by a red light. Bing! It gave my husband just enough minutes to map out the routes in his mind – a crucial first step that he’d ignored. When the green light comes, he knew exactly which lane to turn to get on the highway we want. That was a small and harmless example. We didn’t lose much time. We were safe.
But how many times do we find ourselves tripping or stepping on something stinky or slippery because we don’t look at the steps just in front of our nose? The danger here is a trip, a fall, we may get injured or smelly shoes. But I am still haunted by a deadly accident involving a baby in the arms of her young mother who was rushing down a flight of stairs to answer the doorbell. In a hurry, her eyes were on the door and off the immediate steps. She missed a couple of steps, tripped and crushed the baby when they landed on the floor. She survived, but her firstborn didn’t. She is a friend, someone I used to play tennis with in New York. I only heard about her story through a mutual friend.
That was an extreme case of course. The point is the same. There is a danger of fixing our mind only on the future, overlooking our immediate next steps.
Every journey – long or short, big or small – from taking a flight of stairs to the door, driving from home to the highway or planning a big move for a new relationship, a new home, a new career, involves tending to the first few steps.
Let’s not forget them until it’s too late.