Friday, September 13, 2013

I Know Where I Am

Yesterday, I was so scared that I started crying. While I was driving. Which is what was scaring me. And so, the tears just compounded the fear, which compounded the tears. Grip the steering wheel, wipe your eyes, and STOP crying, Kari. It is going to be okay. Breathe.

Those who know me very well know that I hate driving. In my first year of having a driver's license, I averaged one accident every two months, which includes hitting gas pumps, rear ending a police officer, and driving down a Lake Michigan boardwalk (I thought it was a parking lot, until people started jumping out of the way...) Even after I was married, I could not keep a side mirror on my car, as I kept hitting things and breaking them off. Joel joked that he needed to order car mirrors in bulk, but really, it was not so much a joke. My in-laws still have a tree that bears the marks of the numerous times that I rammed into it, while backing out of their driveway.

I am careful, really I am, but I have terrible depth perception and I HATE driving. On the plus side, I know I am terrible, so I always drive very, very slow, with the result that while I have injured many an inanimate object, I have never hurt a living being.

So, back to yesterday. I was driving home from my office, which is about a 40 minute drive, and it does terrify me on a regular basis. But yesterday...yesterday is almost impossible to describe. On my way home, I pass an enormous cemetery, and when there are funerals, the road fills up with trucks and mini-buses. But yesterday, there was not one, not two, but three funerals all going on at the same time. And as I was driving away from the cemetery, an enormous number of vehicles, and hundreds of people on foot, were traveling towards it. As I moved forward at a snail's pace, giant trucks and zooming mini-buses passed me, going the opposite direction, on both sides of my car. With vehicles closing me in on both sides, and hundreds of people filling the street, I kept just stopping, waiting, then moving an inch or two forward. Finally, I got completely stuck. A giant water truck was parked in the middle of the street, and had no intention of moving. Other busses and trucks flowed past it, on both sides, straight at me. And there was no way to turn around, because hundreds of people were now surrounding my car.

So I stopped. Right in the middle of the road, I simply could not move the car. People began to look at me. I rolled down my window and asked if there was any way forward. They shook their heads and gave me a look of pity. This crazy white woman - what is she doing here?

Some men approached my vehicle. One was holding a jug of shake-shake, a cheap, ubiquitous alcohol in Zambia. I looked around. I was surrounded by hundreds of people, sitting trapped in my vehicle. I knew I was safe, but I was certainly far from comfortable. As yet another mini-bus zoomed past me, rattling my car, I felt the beginning of tears leak from the sides of my eyes. Stop. Breathe. You will get out of here. One of the men tapped on my window. I rolled it down. "I will help you," he said. "You need to turn around." And so, with the help of a few of his companions, he cleared a path for me. He stopped the vehicles flying past on both sides, cleared all the people filling the street, and guided me out, moving around the car, directing me backwards and forwards and sideways, until the path was clear, until I could turn around. I waved my thanks, and drove back to my office.

When I arrived, my boss, the General Secretary of our synod, Rev. Maleka Rabson Kabandama, was just sitting down to lunch. He knew I had been leaving for home; he knew I had to get back for a meeting, and so he was baffled as to why I had returned to the office. He could tell I was shaken and frazzled, and he asked what had happened. When I explained that I was stuck, he looked at me with gentle understanding, and said, "I can get you home." I protested. He was just sitting down to eat! "No," he said. "I will eat when I get back. You can follow me."

I accepted his offer, and began to follow him through twisting backroads, over paths I had never seen, for almost a half hour. Finally, I saw a familiar church, and I knew how to get back. Rev. Kabandama pulled over to the side of the road, and I unrolled my window. "You know where you are now?" he asked. "Yes," I said, trying again not to cry in gratitude. "Now I know where I am."

And so Rev. Kabandama turned back, having taken an hour out of his very busy day and returning to a cold lunch. But he had led me forward, so that I would know where I am.

With Rev. Kabandama in my office
I know where I am now. I am in a place that sometimes scares me, because it is unfamiliar, and I don't always know what to do; this is especially true when it comes to driving. But I am also in a place that exudes grace and kindness and generosity and patience and understanding. I am in a place where a person is more important than a project, where a stranger will clear my path, where a very busy man will leave his food, to take me home. I am in a place where love lives, and I can't believe how blessed I am to live here, too.

I know where I am. I am surrounded by the love of God. That is where I am. Thanks, stranger. Thanks, Rev. K. I see God because of you.


  1. I believe I have found a kindred spirit in all things driving! Unlike you, I don't hate driving, but I could relate to the broken mirrors and other such incidents in my lifetime of driving. I just bought a new car and I am DETERMINED not to scrape the side of the garage while pulling in or out. It's been a month - s far, so good! But I still keep a can of paint remover and an old rag in the garage to clean off the paint that somehow makes its way from the side of the garage door onto my car . As always, thank you for your beautiful message which also had me laughing to the point of tears!! Terri Grady, Presbyterian Church of Okemos

    1. Thanks, Terri! It is so nice to learn that you are a kindred spirit in driving perils...I wish you luck with the new car :)