A Sermon for the New Year

If you love your neighbor
as you love yourself
stop looking at your phone while you are in the car.

Stop looking at your phone while you are in the car
because I want to live.
The cyclists and pedestrians and stray dogs
and your fellow drivers
all want to live.
We are on our way to visit grandkids
or parents
or to adopt kittens
or to give a birthday present
or to get groceries
or to interview for a job.
We are on our way to work
to earn money
to pay for a vacation
or a child’s tuition
or to pay bills
because we believe in the future
and we have hopes and dreams,
or we are on our way home
to people we love.

Stop looking at your phone while you are in the car
because we are all worthy of love
and we all want to live.

Stop looking at your phone while you are in the car
because God wants you to be amused
by the puffy bird on the wire
and the bobble-head on your neighbor’s dashboard,
by the misspelled sign
or by the dog with her head out of the window.
God wants you to live like that,
with your head in the wind
paying attention
enjoying the breath in your lungs
loving life in the moment.

I know you steal a look
because you are stressed
and you crave that little shot of dopamine
but it’s poison
and it’s killing us.

Stop looking at your phone while you are in the car
yes, even while you are stopped at a traffic light
waiting for a few minutes
because if you look while you are at a traffic light,
you are practicing looking at your phone in the car—
you are building a habit
that makes it more likely
that you will look at your phone in the car.
Don’t think it’s safe
because you are stopped on the road
with people waiting behind you
when the light turns green
because someone is flying down the road
not expecting you to be stopped at a green light
because they are looking at their phone while they are in the car.

Instead, pull into a parking lot
or a curb
or a gas station,
and if you must text
or if that reply is so compelling
give it your full attention
so you can fully appreciate it
and then get back to driving
and trying not to kill people
with your one-ton hunk of metal and glass and plastic
hurtling through space.

Yes, I’ve done it.
Yes, I’ve been a distracted driver.
I am no better than anyone else.
I have failed to love my neighbor.
And I realized I was failing to love my neighbor
because I didn’t love myself enough
to stop looking at my phone in the car
and notice the world,
because I was too afraid of being bored
and alone with my thoughts
and I craved distraction
and it was a habit
and this one conversation was so important
and I just needed to check this one thing.

And it hit me: that if I want to change the world
and stop war
and oppression
and climate change
and prejudice
and greed—
that if I wanted to change the world
what I was really expecting
was for people to change their habits.
How could I expect people to change their self-destructive,
self-hating,
neighbor-ignoring habits,
how could I change the world
if I couldn’t even
change myself
and stop looking at my damned phone in the car.

You may think it’s presumptuous
or arrogant
or sanctimonious
to tell you what your New Year’s resolution should be,
but because it could be me on the bicycle
or walking on foot
or in the car that you don’t see
while you are looking at your screen,
because I want to live,
and because I know many of us are trying our best
to love our neighbor as ourselves
which is one of the hardest things to do:

Just stop looking at your phone while you are in the car.

I love you
and I want us to live
and I have this crazy notion
that if all of us
who are able to own mobile phones
and cars
could all agree to stop looking at our phones while we are in the car
if we could manage this basic level
of loving each other the way we love ourselves
we could probably change the world.

Please.

5 thoughts on “A Sermon for the New Year

  1. Hi Dave! Thanks for your post! On Oct. 2 I was hit from behind by an F250 truck who for some reason did not notice a quarter mile of stand still traffic on HWY 31 North. My car was totaled and the driver between me and the truck was taken by ambulance to the hospital with serious injury’s and broken bones. All 3 vehicles were totaled. Thankfully, I only had bruises but the trauma of it all still affects me. Interestingly, my cell was on do not disturb while driving.

    • Wow! So sorry you went through that. It sounds terrifying and I’m sure leaves you shaky for some time. I’m glad you were physically okay.

  2. Dave, Thank you. I’m guilty. And not only do I not want to injure another human being, I want to live to see my granddaughters grow up!! Thanks for the stark reminder. I have put my phone on DoNotDisturb while driving.

    ~Eileen

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