Monday, January 25, 2010

Bumper Stickers

On a family car trip over the holidays, we were passed by a car with a pleasant bumper sticker about Jesus: nothing crazy, but clear, something like, "Jesus is Lord!"

As long time readers may remember, I am concerned about the anonymity of cars. We're so used to it that we don't notice, but sometimes it strikes me how truly nightmarish the highway is: surrounded by metal and glass, the world flying by at such a speed that we can't focus on anything, and only huge metal objects standing in the place of people. Science fiction could hardly conjure up a more dehumanized world.

So it momentarily struck me: perhaps bumper stickers are a good effort. If we can't talk to people, at least we can make clear that we are more than "Hyundai Elantra." Maybe in that depersonalized world, it's good to at least say something positive, and something that points to the transcendent. A bumper sticker could be a small step in the right direction.

But then it occurred to me. Little as I get to interact with other people on the highway, I am not entirely depersonalized. People see me driving the speed limit, and I see some of them crane their necks to see whether I am a little old lady or a middle-aged Chinese man. As little as I get to interact with them, they do see that I am neither of those things, and at least, perhaps, I raise the momentary question whether being a normal looking American requires that one ignore the law.

In that brief moment as they flash by, I think they get enough time to see the three car seats lined up across the back of our little hatch back. And I hope it at least raises a question, at least reminds them that some people still believe in family -- even choose family when it means we won't be able to afford a gigantic SUV.

I don't know what we look like from behind, but I think, during that minute it takes to get by us, that some people can see through our hatchback window the little wheelchair with my son's name emblazoned on it.

And I think, even in those brief glimpses of our humanity, it is perfectly clear that we are Christians.

Of course, I think it's all a lot healthier when we are pedestrians. Everyone on our block knows that we attend daily Mass: they see us, and talk to each other. (I know, because they tell me, in the bakery, where I actually talk to my real live neighbors.) Even if they've never talked to us, they know that we live by a different set of values, and they can guess pretty clearly what those values are.

So there's my bumper sticker, my "Jesus is Lord" t-shirt: my family, and the way I travel. Nothing against the guy with the bumper sticker, but I think we say it a lot more loud and clear.