The Unexpected Turn

When I was a young man of about 14 my father took it upon himself to teach me how to drive. He was an Adirondack guide and the sole caretaker for the Malenson camp called Forest Lodge on upper Saint Regis Lake, near Paul Smith, NY. One day, on the 4 mile drive from the boat landing, through a narrow dirt road  that led to the lodge, he pulled over and said “ok, son here you go. Now take the wheel and drive us to camp.”

I was beside myself with joy, anticipation, excitement and a touch of good old fashion fear. However, the though of shifting gears and hitting the gas on that 1954, rag-top, 4 wheel drive Willies Jeep quickly overcame any feeling of inadequacy I may have had. In a moment I found myself behind the wheel, sensing and feeling the raw power of that slow-moving, mean green machine.

New-found freedom and unlimited adventure just swept over me. I was the captain of my ship and the master of my fate as I drove my father to our place of work on that early summer morning in 1968. We splashed through deep mud holes and terrified the frogs that were floating there. We crossed a gravel filled river bed, wound around kettle hole lakes and climbed the side of sandy hills which had been deposited by the last glacier that passed our way. It was an amazing journey that I had made hundreds of times but was now actually experiencing in a new way for the very first time.

As we drove along, my mind wandered off to the back-woods adventures and mountain excursions I would surely make with my trusty Jeep. Then my father’s voice broke the moment and I was jerked back to reality. His hand grabbed the wheel just as I was about to take my first unplanned “off-road” trip. A turn I had not expected suddenly bent to the left. I however, was headed in a straight line, right into the tangled brush on the side of the road. That unexpected turn in my moment of distraction, nearly ended this first driving experience in a very unpleasant way.

I learned two things that day I have never forgotten. The first is that we should never allow ourselves the luxury of letting our minds wander so far into the future that we forget to stay focused in the here and now. The future you end up with is always built upon  how well you attend to the present. The second thing I learned is that we all need the help of those who are older and have more experience. Life is designed by God to be multi-generational. When we fail to honor and listen to those who have gone before us, the unexpected turns we encounter have the potential to quickly end our moment in the sun.

Do yourself a huge favor in this new year and never stop looking to the future. Look with anticipation and expectation. We all need this! However, as you look, stay focused on the present and hold in honor those who have gone before you. These are the ones God has given you to help you navigate in the present through those unexpected turns. Like it or not, we all need such people in our lives in order to be happy and successful. None of us can make it alone in this world, and the sooner we embrace that truth the better life will be. Happy New Year !

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