Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care
The automobile– it is quintessentially American, more so than apple pie.
It appeals to both our personal and cultural love of “freedom.”
It becomes an extension of our personality; frugal or flashy, safe or speedy.
We can’t wait to start driving, counting the days to our learner’s permit.
We don’t want to stop driving, dreading the day when we hand over the keys.
Driving can be exhilarating or relaxing, depending on your personality and mood at the moment.
The automobile has fueled economic prosperity, generating business upon ancillary business.
It has inspired marvelous technological innovations–such as the drive-up window.
Our love affair with the automobile and all that it represents is arguably one of the most influential story lines in our national history.
I “get it”; our love affair with our automobiles. As a toddler I was at our local dirt tracks where our family raced. Our son still races. I have limped along in cars that were absolute junk and I have rolled down the road in that black F-150 4×4 with the rumbling pipes.
But as a disciple and a citizen I have to acknowledge the shadow side of this love affair. When we embraced the private automobile as our primary (in many places, sole) means of transportation we left the elderly, infirm, children, and those living in poverty in the dust–literally stranded on the side of the road. As communities, we made little or no provision for those who could not drive or the working poor who could not afford the expense of operating an automobile. The automobile enabled white flight, sprawl, and the dismantling of public transit. Our love affair blinded us to the damage we caused to the environment, leaving a crushing economic and social burden to our grandchildren. Its insatiable thirst for oil has oftentimes unduly influenced our foreign policy.
I mention all this to offer a spiritual context for our church’s new collaboration with the JET Express Rideshare program for the elderly. On one level, JET Express is a pretty simple service provided through our partners at Jewish Family Services. If you drive, you can sign up to be a volunteer and bring an elderly person to church or help them with errands in the community. It is likely that minor adjustments in one’s schedule and route might bring joy to and build a relationship with a neighbor.
But beyond that, this new ministry invites us to prayerfully consider all the ways in which we are called to be faithful stewards of the gift of driving. If one is able to drive, what is the responsibility to share that freedom with others who cannot? How can we be ever more conscientious about weighing the value of a particular trip against its larger social and environmental impacts?
For information on JET Express, call 816-381-9249 or email [email protected] or visit www.jfskc.org/jet-express.