When we lived in Metz, France, every day my father would drive the winding road leading down the hill from National Defence Headquarters into the city.
Fog was not uncommon.
One day, while carefully navigating the winding road in a pea soup fog, he missed a curve, drove off the road narrowly slipping between two plane trees until coming to rest in a farmer’s field.
Stuck. Yes. Damaged. No.
Until a woman rear-ended him. In the middle of the farmer’s field.
She’d been following his taillights. She trusted they would lead her into the city. Instead, they lead her into the back end of his car in the middle of a farmer’s field.
Fortunately, because of the dense fog, she too had been travelling very slowly. The damage was negligible. Though my father was a tad annoyed!
Once, while skiing through dense fog on the Zugspitze in Germany, the fog was so thick it was almost mandatory to stop after every curve to ensure you weren’t about to go over a cliff. As I took a sweeping curve in the trail, I stopped to check where I was at and a woman skied into me, knocking us both over. She’d been following my bright orange ski suit as her beacon down the mountainside.
We don’t generally get such dense fog here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, but occasionally, fog will roll in off the river valley and obscure the view.
Whenever it does, as it did earlier this week, I am reminded of that story my father loved to tell about the woman who crashed into him in the middle of a farmer’s field.
He was upset she hit his car.
She was upset he went off the road and stopped in the middle of a farmer’s field. She was trusting him to lead her to safety.
Just like the case of the woman who was following me down the mountain. I didn’t know she was following me. She didn’t know I was about to stop. Though she was grateful I did when she saw the cliff we both might have sailed over!
Sometimes on our life journies, we can be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to notice if there is anyone else on our path, or if someone else is trusting our ability to lead to get them to safety.
Sometimes, we can be following someone else’s path so intently, we forget to watch out for our own safety, relying on their discretion to keep us safe.
In both cases, it is the belief we are alone on our journey, and not responsible for anyone else’s safety, that gets us in trouble.
Like my father, intensely focused on navigating my own way down the mountain, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. And, while that is an almost natural response to pea soup situations, had I thought to call out, just in case there was anyone else in the same predicament or had my father immediately put on his emergency flashers, perhaps the outcome might have been different.
‘Cause here’s the thing. We can be unconscious leaders.
But the way is so much safer for everyone when we travel consciously acknowledging we are not on this road of life alone.
I have been glued to the news about the horrific events unfolding in British Columbia. For those people caught between two landslides, for the people who spent days and nights in their cars or stuck in Hope, waiting for a way back to the lower mainland, for those who lost their farms and livelihoods, their homes and possessions, their everything, my heart is heavy.
I can not lead them out of the devastation they face. I can contribute to their recovery.
We all can.
If you have any amount you can contribute, please consider helping the efforts to lead people back to safety, so they can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives, comforted by the knowledge, they are not alone.
On the weekend I booked my flight for Vancouver and was already scheduled to be there December 8. It is stunning to realize that I cannot drive there right now — all roads are washed out. The first time since 1885 when the railroad was completed — the west coast has no eastern access via road or rail.