Though not yet an industrial or vacation magnet, we have great hopes for the fine state of Kansas. Newcomers may find themselves perplexed by the local norms and practices of highway driving. Periodically out of the goodness of our own hearts, as well as various court orders and private settlements, the management of this website is obliged to offer a public service announcement. Herewith a guide to highway driving in Kansas:
Kansans drive in the left lane. The right lane is too close to the gravelly shoulder, and remember the fate of those seeds sprinkled on rocky soil? To the left, good Christian, to the left! The full range of speeds are welcome in the saintly left lane, which is to say, anything from five miles over the posted speed limit to twenty miles below. What's that, you say you want to drive six miles over the limit, or perhaps seven?
Dear friend, you are not in New Jersey any more. This is not a NASCAR track, it is the stately highway system of the great state of Kansas, and you would do well to respect our laws. Now pipe down that speed talk and take your place in the long glorious line of gleaming vehicles puttering nobly along the left-hand side.
Just as the humble Disciples harvested grain on the Sabbath, there will be times that you need to avail yourself of the right lane. You will need to exit the highway. But there may be other eager travelers, just like you, wishing to gain access to the highway. People in less civilized communities might consider this a moment of friction, when a car attempting to enter the highway finds another car zipping along in the right lane, square in its path. They might demand that the entering car "yield" to the oncoming traffic.
Not in the fair state of Kansas, friend. What right, after all, does the car in the right lane have to continue at such a great rate of speed, when his poor neighbor needs to avail himself of the road as well? The wide, level plains of Kansas reflect our great democracy of citizens, in that none should be considered greater than another. Therefore, good Christian temporarily in the right lane, it is incumbent upon you to slow down, that your poorer neighbor on the entrance ramp might partake of our glorious highway, and as rapidly as possible bring himself to the speed, no greater or less, of his neighbors.
That's right, highway traveler, we are asking you to brake. Place your right foot on the flat pedal and brake to your heart's content. Brake, that all might share in the great forward progress of mankind!
What's that, you say? The people behind you, all traveling at sixty miles an hour, and perhaps not expecting an abrupt stop to traffic in the middle of a highway? Why, that's what brake lights are for. Even the oldest models have two of them, one for each eye in your rear neighbor's head. Don't trouble yourself about him, because he has brakes of his own, as does the driver behind him. Do your duty and stop for the driver who wants to enter the highway, and all the drivers behind you will be happy to stop as well.
For good measure, the saintly drivers in the left lane may well apply their brakes, too. Many a time I have seen it, a great cloud of witnesses, their brake lights lit like candles in heaven, all welcoming a new entrant to the highway. There is not a friendlier highway etiquette in the entire United States.
Though we all try to do our duty, there are those scofflaws who will choose, by virtue of their unregenerate natures, to pass you on the right. Your duty, good Christian, is to accelerate accordingly. Anything less is undemocratic. Keep with them pace for pace, no matter how fast they go, no matter how red-faced they become, until you draw even with a calm-minded true Kansan in the right lane, and then decrease your speed. This is the Kansas way, it is the fair way, it is the right (which is to say left) way.
On behalf of all Kansas highway drivers, I want to give you, newcomer to our state, a warm and hearty welcome, and kindheartedly admonish you with our unofficial state motto: "What's your hurry?"
From our family to yours, happy travels, and may you arrive no sooner than anyone else.
Monday was Caleb's birthday. He is eight years old now. That morning I made breakfast for the family, and then took him to work with me. He did school work at the table in my office, and I did my own work at my computer. He finished first, because he is smarter than me, and a more diligent worker. So he took out a Lego spaceship kit that he got from his great-grandmother, and he put it together. After that, he built a hangar out of office supplies, and then built a paper airplane for me, to keep in the hangar. They're on my desk now, though Caleb is at home, busy being an eight year-old, doing schoolwork and reading everything he can find and getting bigger by the second, so big that soon I won't be able to pick him up and carry him to bed at night.
When we finished working we went to lunch, and then to Target so I could buy him a pencil sharpener he's been wanting. On the way into the store, he walked beside me, and even though my hand was dangling near his arm, he didn't take it the way he used to do when he was a little chattering boy. Now he is a big boy, and he doesn't need to hold my hand so much any more.
They keep getting older, if you're lucky, and so do you. Soon they don't need you to hold their hands or make their sandwiches or say their bedtime prayers with them. Soon you have all the quiet time you ever wanted, hours and days and weeks of it, interspersed with an occasional phone call, if you're lucky. Soon they are grown and they are gone.
I have years and years left with them, and I am sure they will grind me down to dust before the last of them leaves, but sometimes I am sad when I think about an empty house. I am happy too, in a way I didn't expect, because I know one day each of them will have his own house full of youngsters. They will crawl into his bed at all hours, and make messes and fill every room with giggles. He will toil and fear and laugh over each of them just as I have over my own children, and there is nothing better on earth.
I would give them anything, because their happiness is mine, and so I am happy when I think about their houses full of children, because I know that no matter what I do to make them smile now, there is an incomparable joy awaiting them, the joy of their own children. It almost makes it worth letting them go, not that I have a choice, which is probably best, selfish as I am.
That's a lot of philosophizing for an eight-year birthday, more than I did on my 40th. It's warranted, I suppose, because while I am simple and shot through with weakness, they amaze me. They come out so small and defenseless, and before long they are throwing crotch-level tackles and asking impossible questions, and healing wounds I didn't even know were there. We look far and wide for miracles and even rumors of miracles, and forget the miracles among us, the small lives that God is either foolish or hopeful enough to trust us with.
I've had eight years with Stephen Caleb, and five with Timothy Eli, and three with William Isaac, and less than one with Isaiah John, and I've not appreciated the time as I should. Let me appreciate the years to come. Let them be many, a great many, and forgive me for the time I've wasted. Forgive me for overlooking these miracles.
We could fill up a life with thank you and forgive me, couldn't we? I imagine we should say both every day.