A self-imposed life without wheels

March 26, 2014 | Viewpoints
Alicia Good | Special to Canadian Mennonite

When I moved to the little town of Leamington in southwestern Ontario, my family made the decision to refrain from purchasing a second car. We had just left Toronto, and having even one car for our young family felt like opulence. And guilt.

I had prided myself on my Jesus-like life of environmental sustainability through the years we had lived in Toronto, using subways, bicycles and most often just my own two feet to go about my daily living. Never mind the fact that we were starving students, and couldn’t have afforded a car even if we wanted one. I was able to warm myself with thoughts of my own righteousness as I pushed my stroller up and down Bloor Street through the cold rain.

Yet a year after our big move to the country, I discover myself beginning to talk about “needing” a second car for our family of three. I pastor a church about seven kilometres north of town. That’s a perfect distance for a bike ride on a warm summer morning. It’s a much farther distance on a hot summer afternoon . . . or during a blizzard.

So for the last few months I have relied on hitching rides from a variety of friends and church members. I’ve also taken advantage of Leamington’s wonderful taxi system, which has blessed me with the opportunity to hear some colourful stories about our town. These impromptu travel arrangements have helped me to learn about the community and the people who live here in ways I never would have experienced otherwise.

But what do you do without a car when you need to get to the hospital that’s an hour’s drive away? Or how do you cope with a teacher’s frustration after you get to the school to pick up your child late when the cabs are running behind?

Life without wheels has blessed me with some insights into the lives of the marginalized folks in our community, the folks who can’t make the drive out to our friendly middle-class church just north of town.

The relationships I am developing with my car-driving friends through my dependence on them giving me rides have truly been God-given gifts. Yet as time goes by, I find myself increasingly frustrated by my lack of wheels. It takes longer to get to where I need to go. Sometimes planning how I will get to work seems to take more thoughtful energy than my work itself!

So now I find myself asking just how much our family budget can be squeezed to accommodate a second vehicle. Yet I wonder what will I be giving up by choosing to drive all alone to work? And most of all, I wonder whether not having a car might itself be a form of ministry.

Alicia Good is pastor of North Leamington United Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont.

--Posted March 26, 2014

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