Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was at one of those social activities in the woods with a bonfire and a keg or three. On this particular occasion, the party was attended by a visitor from Oklahoma in one of those late 1970s early 1980s American-made cars big enough and flat enough to resemble a small barge.
The young man —Bobby Joe or Billy Joe or Billy Bob, one of those dual names so common in the South — attempted to park his car on the side of the narrow dirt road. He was flummoxed when his barge of a car tipped into the ditch and got stuck. Partygoers who volunteered to help him get unstuck asked why he drove into the ditch. His response was memorable: “Where I come from it’s all flat! There’s no ditches on the sides of the road!”
I’m quite sure there are ditches in Oklahoma, but Billy Bob or Billy Joe or whatever his name was had a point that has stuck with me: the roads of life are rarely flat. There’s usually a ditch or a cliff face on either side of the road, and veering too far to one side or the other is likely to get us stuck, or worse. It’s a lot easier to stay on the road than it is to get out of the ditch. That’s true in politics, religion and pretty much every human activity.
By NIKI TURNER – firstname.lastname@example.org