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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Real Help From A Back Seat Driver

Yesterday my 'back seat' driver sat boldly in the passenger's seat--a position usually reserved for me. Not that I love riding passively. In fact, the argument over who gets to drive on long trips has caused more friction in our household than any other topic. But yesterday, I was the chosen! Seven glorious hours behind the wheel of a rented Nissan.

From years of riding when I would rather be driving, I have developed my own survival technique. Periodicals, puzzles, a novel, and for a case of serious boredom--a pillow. I studiously avoid watching my husband challenge the other 'idiots' on the road by keeping my eyes focused on my own pursuits.

With our positions reversed, my husband did not reciprocate my studied indifference. Mile after mile, his eyes glued to the road, he offered running commentary. "Watch your speed here. This area's always patrolled." "You will probably want to get into the left lane. The right is bumpy for miles." "You probably have time to pass that truck before you get to the exit..." And on it went from Baton Rouge to Natchitoches to Dallas.

An oft-used "I know that" almost escaped my pursed lips. But with an uncharacteristic outflow of humility, I realized I didn't know the information he offered. He, who travels this road so frequently he could navigate it successfully while finishing a crossword puzzle and simultaneously reading a novel was giving me the benefit of his hard won experience. I was grateful rather than annoyed.

Freed up from trying to figure out the quirks of an unfamiliar highway, I allowed my mind to travel the more recognizable terrain of my daily life. I thought of and prayed for the young women I see regularly--the ones who tell me their stories and want to hear mine. Suddenly I realized my role in their life journey is not unlike the role my husband is playing on this day-long trip. These gifted young women are solidly behind the wheel of their own lives. I couldn't take the wheel even if I wanted to. Yet, in a way that daily humbles me, these women invite me to journey with them for a while. They ask to learn from my experiences along this stretch of life's road. They are eager to know where the potholes are and which is the most expedient route. My comments won't make their journey shorter, but it might make it safer.

I see now I am not so much a mentor as I am a 'back seat driver' in another woman's life. Based on yesterday's experience, I'm okay with that.