Trucks, Morning walks and compassion..

Ed Olfert

A year and a half ago, I faced a diabetes diagnoses. That has moved forward well, managed by diet, exercise and medication. Along side, however, has come another struggle with balance, dizziness, occasionally nausea. (To you medical folks, no, it’s not a sugar low.) A doctor and a therapist are working with me. Again, moving forward quite well.
Of course, a story comes out of that.
On a morning walk, a distance that requires country roads, I spotted an empty whiskey bottle. This isn’t good, glass in my son in law’s field. I scooped it up and continued my stride.
As my journey returned me to my village, I could feel those balance issues coming on. My need of the road width grew somewhat broader. Soon, I needed a quarter of the grid road, lurching from side to side. I carry my phone for emergencies, but no, I can do this.
A car came from a yard. It stopped well back, and as I staggered by, tightly clutching my 26-ounce jug of Wiser’s Special Blend, I noted eyes, wide and staring. After I passed by, the car slowly turned onto the road, making as wide a berth as possible, still with the shocked visage pointed my way. My staggering journey carried on, but now I was also giggling maniacally, and hoping that driver recognized me as a retired minister. I look forward to juicy town gossip.
That two-hour long morning walk has become an important time of reflection. Come along with me as I walk, as I ponder.
As I have never attended a Mennonite connected place of learning, and only the tiniest measure of theological study at all, (Anglican) I feel freedom to pursue any direction that I sense points toward holiness. Again, a story.
On the same walk, last week. This is a good day. I need very little room on the road, only shoulder width. I hear a vehicle approaching from behind. Normally, I wait till I hear gravel stones hissing, then raise my arm to greet the passer as they go by. But this time, there is no hissing. There is little indication of approach. I turn, and note, still some distance back, a tractor trailer unit coming at me. The operator is slowing, patiently going down through their 18 speeds, no impatient “brapp” of the engine brake. By the time the truck rolls by, and I see it is carrying three large tanks, presumably to nurse a field sprayer somewhere ahead, it is barely moving.
As that truck begins the slow climb back up through the gears, I sense the presence of holiness. I picture the driver, he or she, being aware that on this desperately dry gravel road, the dust they raise is blowing my way. To reduce that thick wall of cloud moving south, they choose to slow the ponderous six axle unit to a crawl.
Something of God is happening. A lifetime of living with receptors wide open has taught me that when compassion, consideration, respect, is present, that is always a sign of the presence of God. There are no exceptions. I believe the Love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 may support my sketchy theology.
A little unorthodox, perhaps. The upside is that God can be experienced many times a day, accompanied always by a sense of awe. I didn’t recognize the truck, but if and when I encounter that driver, we will have a conversation about compassion.

Ed Olfert has been a farmer, welder, truck driver, underground miner, heavy equipment operator, and preacher. He is currently rebuilding a 58-year-old truck, and doing some of what he calls “whimsical welding” as well as practical welding, He is still writing and still doing some itinerant preaching, and like many, he is still trying to perfect the partner, father, opa thing.