Road works winding on from the wee small hours into a busy Friday morning combining with people on their way to work; that’s the scenario. The local council are tidying up verges and its management seem oblivious to the growing traffic problem. The area’s become a real bottleneck. Something obviously didn’t go according to plan that now the job has overrun. This issue receives enough attention that several morning radio programs announce the area as a problem spot to avoid.
It’s potentially maddening to be stuck in this sort of situation. Fortunately I wasn’t, but I imagined being there and hearing the announcements on radio. I also thought of those very small operations or functions—that when they go wrong—they make abundantly more than their share of inconvenience and heartache.
It reminded me of a time when I was about eighteen and working for the State water authority as an apprentice fitter and turner. We had only just commissioned this new Harding River Dam the year before—this was lauded as a huge accomplishment for the government of the day. It was a massive project in its day. Like all of these high profile projects anything significant made the media.
One day whilst working with the tradesperson I was allocated to I was asked to dispose of a certain valve—it was worn or something. I complied with the request. The trouble was, as I found out three days later or so, I’d thrown out the wrong valve—I’d actually put a very expensive, exotic plastic valve in the bin, and that bin had now been emptied.
The Harding River Dam as a result had to be closed down for about a week due to this mishap and I was summarily punished; the ‘scab duty’ of foraging through large bin after bin (for days) in search of something that wasn’t any longer there! It was quite a low point.
The authority was being asked to ‘please explain’ with regard to the need to operate the redundant Millstream bore field, and down the scrutiny flowed, through the maintenance department, down to me—a lowly apprentice with vague interest in it all, besides being chided severely.
It’s amazing how some small things have their very own significance. We wouldn’t ordinarily think that one part missing would create so much inconvenience. But these things do happen.
All throughout life we want to become successes. We want to meet with the approval of parents, teachers, bosses, authorities—even the populace, in our dreams to become a famous sportsperson, musician or influence in society. We never want infamy. We never want to be known for our failures and mistakes.
Yet the truth is delays, interruptions and inconveniences are always part of life, though some days are better than others. At these moments of being trapped in the traffic or being ensconced in a mistake-ridden political mess we must endeavour to realise there’s much more to life than our present hard vista.
We so often polarise our thinking. Our little issues become big issues most suddenly, notwithstanding true crises (though rummaging through dumpster bins was a “crisis” for me). No matter the size of the delay, interruption or inconvenience it’s a very small issue (hopefully and generally without large consequence).
Our approach to these things is a matter of spiritual life and death. Yes, you heard me right. To lambast the delays, the interruptions, and the inconveniences of life is to say that our little worlds are more important than others’, even to God—that our moments take on the importance of the eternal. We’re saying we want and deserve special treatment. This is at best immature and unrealistic and at worst plain selfish.
Life is what life is. Things happen for reasons often beyond us (in our moment’s cognition). A plain, level and mature acceptance of circumstances helps us in every area in life—not to mention its abiding value in God.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.