Armed with the new eyes that the Lord is giving me, my camera, and a car load of sunkissed babies, I pulled out of the drive. It was 7 in the evening and we had just left the pool after our second swim of the day. In a continual effort to really see my community, I thought we would take the road less traveled and take a dirt road. I rolled the windows down and turned the music up a little louder than usual. We were in the country and I thought we would embrace our inner redneck for an hour and let our hair blow in the wind as we sang to the radio.
Everthing was great…until I heard a famliar ding and saw the red low fuel light come on. I had been so busy capturing beauty on film, that I had wandered onto a road that I was not familiar with. And now we had about 12 miles worth of gas to get us to a gas station. In the middle of nowhere. At now, 8 in the evening. What were we going to do?
I have run out of gas on two other occassions, so this idea of having to walk to the nearest gas station is something the kids and I have done 2 other times. But we have never run out of gas in a rural community at nightfall.
I began to get nervous and the kids began to get silly. They were laughing and counting deer standing in tobacco fields and I was counting miles as they ticked by on the odometer. I turned off the AC and turned off the radio. “PRAY, kids!!”, I yelled. “We need a gas station, now!”
And they did. Some seriously and some laughing. We passed a sign that read “Leggett, 6 miles”. Leggett?
Where in the heck is Leggett?
I drove on, silently praying for an intersection, bright lights, or a sign. The Lord answered with a living, breathing man, cutting the grass around his mailbox.
“The closest gas station is 2 miles ahead.”, he said. Wiping the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand, I grinned big and the kids cheered!
I pulled into the cash only gas station, and filled the tank, whispering unending thanks.
As I navigated our trip home, I kept the camera close so that I could hopefully snap a few more pictures of farmers in fields, deer at woods’ edge, tractors, waiting for tomorrow’s work. After a few minutes of driving, I became keenly aware of the change in scenery. Long gone were the tobacco fields and crops of corn. I was in another world. Groups of men, with nowhere to go and seemingly nothing to do, were gathered on front porches and in parking lots. Scantily clad women pushed baby strollers and toddlers ran behind them to catch up. Young children rode bikes into the street and people darted in front of traffic to just cross to the other side. As I approached the stop light, I began to recognize a few landmarks.
I was less than a mile from my own front porch.
Fear welled up within me as I pulled into the drive and unloaded the kids and the car. How do I reconcile all of the beauty found in corn fields and old barns with the obscene poverty and ugly that is right across the railroad tracks?
Lord, I am so small and fearful and busy with children. Give me eyes to see the beauty in all of this…my community…and the heart to love it.