My grandfather spent his career days driving trucks, hauling chickens and other goods from his tiny farming community into “town” — meaning cities that had more than a couple thousand people. When he wasn’t on the road, he also ran a little store and breakfast diner near his home where I would fill up on homemade biscuits, bottled cokes and Reese’s Cups as a kid. I think the only reason I didn’t end up weighing 300 pounds is because I had to walk there.
Looking back, I admire how hard my grandfather worked.
But I also admire that he took breaks to ride his motorcycle. Growing up, it seemed like that was the one thing he always made time to do for himself.
In fact, he didn’t stop riding his motorcycle until the dawn of his 80th birthday a couple of years ago. I remember him telling me matter-of-factly that he’d sold his bike and was done riding.
My grandfather was still incredibly sharp and had no health issues affecting his ability to ride. So with a tone of confusion I asked, “why?”
His answer stuck with me.
“Well darlin’, people just don’t pay attention anymore. And when people don’t pay attention, we all get hurt.”
In the literal sense, he was talking about this era of distracted drivers. It’s no secret to anybody who owns a car, but especially a motorcycle, that since cell phones, the roads have gotten weird.
People have stopped paying attention.
They’re dead stopped at green lights scrolling through Instagram, passing into lanes without checking their blind spots because they’re reading a long text, ramming into bumpers because they’re sifting through Groupon emails.
We’re distracted (I’m distracted). And many have gotten hurt.
But his stated retirement as a motorcyclist didn’t stick with me because I have a deep conviction for road safety.
It felt more like a danger warning for my life.
These simple words from my grandfather about no longer riding his motorcycle have become a reminder to me to look up and share the road with those closest to me. We get so buried in our phones, calendars, goals and worries that we can forget to hone in on the people doing life alongside us. The people who might need us to look up. The people we might be hurting.
When we stay so distracted that we lose sight of the needs of our friends or where God’s at work in our own lives, it stings. We hurt ourselves and we hurt other people, often the people we care about most.
Looking up helps us guide one another.
When we pay attention, a community comes back to life because we’ve stepped outside of ourselves, turned a few things off, and committed to what’s in front of us.
And when we choose not to pay attention, my father’s father might have said it best — “we all get hurt.”