An Anchor in the Whirlwind

Dear Will:

On my way into work yesterday, I heard a report on NPR saying that, according to the Department of Transportation, Americans drove 10 billion fewer miles in May of 2008 than they did in May of 2007. That’s 10 billion. Imagine a guy who normally drives 1,000 miles in a month simply deciding not to drive anywhere for 30 days. You’d need 10 million such guys in order to make 10 billion. Incredible.

That’s what happens, I guess, when gas settles in at over $4.00 a gallon. Just this morning I filled my tank and paid only $4.15. And I was thinking I got a pretty good deal. That’s crazy.

Which is why I recently found myself online reading about how to get more miles per gallon without switching cars. It’s pretty simple, as it turns out: Accelerate slowly. Lose speed when climbing a hill. Coast whenever possible. Drive without the AC. In other words, all I have to do is change all of the bad habits I’ve formed over years and years of aggressive driving. (Update: I’ve tried, and it’s not going well.)

I also went online to figure out how to get to and from work if I were to rely solely on public transportation. It’s more straightforward than I expected: I can catch a bus on Chapman, ride it down to the train depot, and from there catch a second bus which will drop me at the corner by my office. Piece o’ cake. The only catch is that the one-way ride will take me two hours. (Let’s just say I’m not ready to make that switch just yet.)

I bring all of this up because I work for a large advertising agency. Our biggest client is a Japanese carmaker. So these issues affect more than just my “carbon footprint” and my disposable income. They threaten my very livelihood. It’s more than a bit unsettling.

Of course, I’m not alone when it comes to feeling threatened. You would be hard-pressed to name an industry which isn’t affected in some way by this recent shift in our economy. Transportation and manufacturing costs are skyrocketing even as real estate prices are plummeting. The price of everything is affected. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do get the sense that we are in the midst of a permanent shift to which we are all going to have to adapt. It will be painful, no doubt. Change generally is.

In times of such uncertainty, I confess that I draw a great deal of comfort from my faith. I get nervous for the future just like anybody else, but I feel as though my foundation is solid nonetheless. I’m reminded of these words from the Book of Mormon:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)

Now I’m not trying to suggest that our current economic woes are the work of the devil. All I mean is that in the midst of the current whirlwind, I feel anchored, confident that, come what may, my family and I will make it through. Somehow.

That’s my prayer, in any case. May God bless you likewise.

PW

Someone to Tuggle Wiff

Dear Will:

We live just off of Cannon Street, about a block south of Linda Vista School.  If you have ever walked along Cannon on the Linda Vista side of the hill, you know that the wind whistles down the street at a pretty good clip, even on a relatively calm evening.  On a blustery night like this one, however, the wind comes rushing over the pass and through our backyard like it’s about to miss the last train out of town.  Whenever that happens, the wind chimes push and shove each other to try to get out of the way, the fichus gets trampled and dry leaves start to huddle together beside the shrubs like accident victims looking for moral support.  The sound can be impressive, and with very little imagination you can start to feel a little like Dorothy Gale just before she took her unscheduled trip to Oz.

Of course, usually the source of such turbulence is the Santa Anas, which warm the air and make you feel as if spring has come early.  Tonight, however, it’s a cold wind, sent with love from Canada, and I’m having trouble reconciling the sights and sounds with the temperature.  We don’t get cold winds around here, so it’s creating some mental dissonance for me that is intriguing.  (Can you tell I’m not outside writing this?  I’m sure if I were out rescuing the fichus like I’m supposed to be, dissonance is not the word that would come to mind.)

I stop typing and head upstairs to tend to a fussing two-year-old.  “I think I’m sad,” Seth tells me.  When I ask why he explains that he needs somebody to snuggle with, or as he puts it, “someone to tuggle wiff.”  I indulge him ever so briefly (he and I have already had our goodnight tuggle for the night) and suggest he cozy up with his stuffed elephant instead.  I sneak out.

While I may be a little annoyed by the interruption, I have to admit he’s pretty cute.  I also have to admit that his instincts are absolutely correct.  When the world goes strangely cold and everything about us is thrown into disarray, it’s good to have something familiar to reach for.  (You had to wonder how I was going to turn this into a “message,” didn’t you?)  In such moments, I often find myself on my knees in prayer or reaching for the scriptures.  One verse in particular is a comforting reminder of where strength can best be found when the storms of life strike hard:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you , it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.   (Helaman 5:12)

At last, Seth goes quiet, and with reluctance I face the task of moving the fichus to the side of the house.  As I venture out into the windstorm, I shall do my best not to get blown into the neighbor’s swimming pool.  Before I sign off, let me remind you of my sincere offer to help you if I can should the wind ever prove too strong for you.  I would welcome a phone call or an e-mail any time.

PW