What is really important

After a day out, Jane and I hoped for a straightforward journey home. However, driving up the M3 the other day, the traffic slowed to a crawl and then to stationary. Every now and then we moved forward a few metres. We were only a very short distance from Fleet Services and after around 45 minutes of this stop-start snail's-pace progression, we got sufficiently close to the services for us safely to slip up the hard-shoulder and off for a break.

Fleet Services was bedlam. The car park still had spaces, but inexplicably people were static in their cars around every aisle, as if they were unable to shake off the queuing addiction. It was no better inside where the headache-inducing noise levels reverberated around the confined space. We decided that as the jam was only on our carriageway we should climb over the footbridge in the hope that the services on the other side would be quieter. On the way we got a glimpse of the full extent of the chaos on the motorway below with stationary cars as far as the eye could see and now people out of their cars, walking around, some even sitting on the roofs of their vehicles. A small group of people had gathered on the bridge to survey that situation and there we overheard that there had been a fatal accident just north of where we were. At this point I felt ashamed of my selfish concerns about my own convenience, as we realised that the frustration of sitting in a queue really doesn't matter, but life and death does.

The other side of Fleet Services was blissfully quiet. We spent a considerable time there, first in the café and then, as evening approached, picking up a fast-food meal. When we emerged the traffic jam had almost cleared. We slowly pulled away from Fleet Services and solemnly drove up the M3 past the accident site which was still in the process of being cleared up.

The experience of being stopped in my tracks from my normal whirlwind has made me reflect on how precious and vulnerable life is. As the Psalmist said: The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16). Much of the time we ignore the telltale signs of our own mortality, content to plough ahead, blinkers fixed, focussed solely on what we think we need or want in the immediate future. We rarely stop to consider what is really important, far less fashion our lives towards these greater ideals.

In Go and Grow I believe we are engaged in a project that goes beyond the mundane and aspires to be something that will reach beyond the smallness of our normal parochial ambitions. I'm not saying that it is life or death, but it is at least bigger and more significant than most of our daily preoccupations. To be involved in something that is bigger than ourselves gives a perspective on our own lives and can act as an important foil to our myopic self-fixation. And that in turn should lead us to reflect on what is really important in life.

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