Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 22, 2014

Same circumstances, fresh perspective

By Sherry Manley | Apr 14, 2011

Last Thursday, God sent me a message. I’m not quite sure what it was, but it’s good to know He’s thinking of me.

Driving from Fairfield to a community health nursing clinical at Excel in Ottumwa, I noticed a few extra musical notes — ding, ding, ding, ding — in some of the songs on the radio. About halfway between Batavia and Agency, I finally turned the radio off and realized the gentle ding, ding, ding is actually Buick’s version of “RED ALERT, RED ALERT!!” I looked down to check the only thing I could think of that might cause my alarm to sound. Seat belt? Check! Well, what else could it be? My speed was fine; my gas level was fine; my temperature gauge was hot. Hot? HOT!!!!

By this time the car itself was beginning to panic and had taken matters into its own hands. A message on the dashboard where the mileage usually appears informed me the air conditioning had been turned off to protect the engine and I should stop when it was safe. I pulled onto the gravel shoulder, found the hazard light button and waited for the temperature gauge to cool down a little. Ten minutes later I pulled back onto the highway and drove about two minutes before the engine was hot again.

I was about to blow a gasket, too. I’d left work at The Ledger around 8:15 a.m., leaving me plenty of time to make it to Excel by 9 o’clock. It was now pretty clear I was going to be late and, because I am the last person on Earth who doesn’t carry a cell phone, I had no way to let them know.

After pulling over at least twice more, I glided into a parking spot in front of the Agency United Methodist Church. The sign in front announced Pastor Bud Lane’s Sunday sermon — “Letting Go.” I wondered if it was a sign from God, but nowhere on the sign did it say to pay more attention to my car’s alarm system or to purchase a cell phone.

I walked to the post office where the lady behind the counter let me use the phone to call my husband Dan. He took down phone numbers for my clinical instructor and the Excel nurses’ office and said he was on his way. With the relief of knowing my problems were now in someone else’s hands, I hung up the phone. The post office lady pointed out that it wasn’t such a bad day to have car trouble; it wasn’t freezing, or snowing or raining. I thanked her, as much for her positive attitude as for the use of the phone.

Back at the car, I decided to lift the hood — because that’s what people do when they have car trouble. The engine and I eyed each other warily. After a minute or two, we came to the mutual understanding that it would really be better if someone who actually knew what he was doing touched the engine.

I wandered around the church and finally sat on the Clell and Martha Johnson memorial bench. There was now nothing to do but wait. I let go and watched the morning sun rise, listened to the birds sing and thought how lucky I was. It was a beautiful, warm day. My husband, who usually works in Iowa City, was off today. If I had to have car trouble, I couldn’t have picked a better day.

When Dan came, he looked over the car and determined it needed water, so we drove to the Agency gas station and purchased antifreeze and a very large bottle of Ice Mountain water — the most expensive radiator water money could buy. Dan filled up the car, got in and set off for Fesler’s to get it checked out. I got in his car and headed to Excel, turning onto the highway right behind a semi-truck load of hogs.

Watching their curly little tails wiggle back and forth, I realized the message wasn’t to buy a new phone or become proficient in car mechanics. It’s a reminder that when things aren’t going my way, sometimes all I need is a little perspective.

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