Parking is an issue in my place of employment; there are, it appears, fewer spots than there are employees. Who parks where is serious business. The Chief Operating Officer, also known as the Parking Czar, has spent considerable time determining which employees may park within a day's hike from the building and those who need to hire a Sherpa. The winter months are particularly exciting as snow obscures parking lines and plows pile huge mounds of snow in the corners of the lots covering dozens of potential parking spots. It's also the time that local nursing students arrive by the dozens, usually much brighter and earlier than those of us skidding in thirty seconds before the start of our shift, and they seem to get all the spots that don't require global positioning systems to find later.
Walking from my car to the entrance, while a lengthy affair, does provide ample time for thinking. Before I misrepresent myself as an intellectual, allow me to characterize some of my usual thoughts: "My foot hurts." "Why didn't I make coffee this morning." "I like Tim Horton's breakfast sandwiches." "I don't think my Sherpa likes me." Just meaningless random thoughts bouncing to and fro like chubby little toddlers at the playground, none of them brave enough to climb to the top of the slide but content in just being there.
This morning, though, my thoughts were jarred by a bumper sticker. Well, not really a bumper sticker; rather a bumper magnet. You know the type, shaped like a ribbon curled around. After 9/11 there were thousands out there with messages of patriotism and support for the troops. Others draw awareness to diseases and disabilities. Not this one. It said, "I love my black lab".
My first thought was, "who cares". I love dogs just as much as the next guy. But, really, who cares. I sure don't care if you like black labs, chocolate labs, or Frankenstein's lab. As I looked about at the bumper stickers on other cars, I saw a mix of the serious and the sublime along with the inane and just plain stupid. Most were fairly innocuous. "97 Rock" continues to be a favorite in the Buffalo area, although most listeners are losing hair and graying; restaurant, bar, and radio station stickers abound. But a few were at least somewhat of an attempt to present a real thought...One of my fav's: "God bless everyone. No exceptions". I'm glad you made that clear to Him, oh Subaru driving sticker applicator. Another: "Live simply that others may simply live". On a Hummer. Yeah.
My thoughts, though, kept returning to the black lab-lover. I condescendingly marveled at the stupidity of such a sticker. I thought to myself, "goodness, thank God my life is so much more full that I don't have such a ridiculous sticker on my car". I surmised that my life was infinitely deeper and more meaningful than that poor peasant, and, thus, more valuable. Then one of those chubby little toddlers at my mental playground looked me squarely in the eye and called me a dork.
I realized that much of my thoughts are as innocuous and meaningless as a bumper sticker professing love for a dog. I go through hours and hours with thoughts no deeper than my desire for pastries. I tried to think back through the week to recall what I was thinking as I walked to work in the morning. Not much. The majority of my time is spent thinking about present and future tasks, bodily discomforts and needs, and food. Yup. That's my brain in action. Not much to be condescending about.
Our thoughts need to be lifted to a higher plane. No wonder God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts," in Isaiah chapter 55:8. He's thinking about how much He loves us, the goings on of the world He created, and other such eternal omniscient-type stuff, and I'm thinking about doughnuts and back pain. Believe me, I'm grateful His thoughts aren't like mine; we would all be in trouble.
This coming week I am going to try something different. I am going to think about something real on the way in to work. Maybe I'll pray, maybe I'll ask God what I should think about. Maybe I will think about what I can do to show those I love how much I care. I'm not sure what I will muse about, but I am going to try very hard to pull my thoughts out of the realm of bumper stickers and into something a little more meaningful. And maybe, just maybe, my mental toddlers will grow up a little.
Let's hope. I don't like being called a dork.