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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Freeway Opening

February 12th, 2009

They say Chicago has two seasons: winter and road construction. In Phoenix, unless you count the 20 minutes in January where you put on a sweater, there is no winter. Which means that in the Valley of the Sun, orange pylons, barricades and flashing yellow lights are always in season.

One wouldn’t think opening a new stretch of road is reason to party. But in a metro area of nearly 4 million people, it’s cause for celebration. With the booming population, anything that shaves miles off the commute is a welcome development. Between July 2004 and July 2005, over 200,000 people moved into the Phoenix valley. That’s like all of Lubbock, Texas packing their bags and relocating.

So when a new piece of freeway is ready to open, the Department of Transportation celebrates. When the Loop 202 extended to Gilbert Road several years back, 10,000 people showed up for a morning freeway party. Vendors couldn’t sell anything, but they could give things away to promote their respective businesses. A car club put their hot rods on display. A mortgage company gave tethered hot air balloon rides. A blues band played. There were inflatable jumps and slides for kids. One church gave away free food and trucked in a load of snow for the kids to play in.

I walked while Annie and Emma had a great time riding their Big Wheels through the crowd. You couldn’t help but feel a sense of neighborhood strolling along the white center lines. Golden Retrievers and other canines on the ends of leashes got lots of pats on the head from total strangers. People exchanged hellos while mentioning their major cross street addresses as a way of introduction. It was family fun day on the freeway.

A Chandler police officer on his bicycle was monitoring the crowd. I talked with him for a couple minutes and then said, “If everyone got along this well all the time, you’d be out of a job.” He laughed. “You’re right. But somehow I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

The difference a day makes.

Less than 24 hours later the party zone officially turned into the speed zone. The new rubberized asphalt that had been happily trod by Reeboks and Tevas and Tony Lama boots was now feeling the spin of Michelins and Goodyears. White lines, ignored the day before, were now all that separated 70-mile per hour commuters in their SUV’s and sedans. It’s a good bet that some of the same people who smiled and waved the day before were now jockeying for position and giving each other the one-finger salute after being cut off on a mad dash for the exit to I-10. From that day forward, the only walking on the 202 will be to raise the hood on a stalled vehicle, to change a flat tire, or survey the damage of a collision.

Any day you feel the freeway under your feet is not a good day.

The freeway is built for cars and trucks. The freeway makes for more efficient traffic flow.

Our cars and trucks get us where we want to go. Our vehicles help us be independent. They are also rolling isolation bubbles that go from driveway to street to freeway to street to parking garage and back again. Coming and going, we’re alone with our own thoughts and our favorite radio stations.

Our vehicles make it easier for us to speed by one another.

As you’re flying down your road today trying to keep your cool when the Dodge truck cuts you off and the Plymouth minivan ahead of you can’t pick a lane, remember the person behind the wheel is as self-absorbed as you are. We’re all trying to get from Point A to Point B. Extending grace to one another makes that trip a bit smoother.

And while it’s not smart to go for a walk on the freeway, a walk around our street, saying “hi” to our neighbors and patting some dogs on the head might help us remember to extend grace the next time we’re on the freeway.

We’re all trying to get from Point A to Point B. Extending grace helps all of us get there.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-3

Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com