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If you continue to move you’ll end up ahead

Sitting behind the steering wheel of my car, I desperately tried to figure out why the traffic on the interstate was slowing down to a snail’s pace. I strained my neck to look past the vehicles in front of me to see if I could determine the problem. My attempts were futile because there were too many cars in front of me and by now we were all coming to a complete stop.

My day had started off great. The night before, I made a plan to line up all my errands between Macon and Warner Robins. My daddy always said, “Son, you need to make your trips count. Do everything thing you need to along the way.” I had carefully calculated the approximate time it would take me to do this, allowing plenty of time to arrive at a garden club gathering in Warner Robins where I was scheduled to speak. I was well aware I needed to be there on time. What I had not calculated into my plans was a traffic jam, but that was exactly what I was stuck in.

I have always heard about time “warping” and sometimes I think it does. It moves much slower when you’re completely stopped in a traffic jam. Impatiently, I looked at my watch and it appeared that the second hand might stop at any given second. Yet, when I glanced at the clock in my car, the time I needed to be in Warner Robins was approaching at the speed of light. One thing was for sure. I was stuck and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

What seemed like an eternity passed before I glanced up from my dream-like state to see the cars slowly start inching forward in front of me. “Good,” I said to myself. “At least we are moving forward.” I slowly pressed the accelerator and then applied the brake. That was my method of driving for the next couple of miles.

I have never been one to stand still. In fact, I can hardly even stop long enough to go to sleep at night. My mother always said I was afraid I might miss something. I think she was right. Whether in the car on a road, on my bike along the river or on my daily journey through life, as long as I’m moving forward I’m completely satisfied. Because moving forward means I’m making progress. When I’m stuck in one place because of a rut or jam, I’m not.

First glancing at my watch and then at the car clock, I looked ahead to see if we were making any headway. Finally, I was able to see what the trouble was. Because of road construction, two lanes of traffic were merging into one. Bottle-necked is the term I’ve always heard to describe this type of traffic. I smiled as I envisioned the image of all these cars leaving the wide space of a bottle and having to converge into a very small space to get out. “Accurate description,” I said to myself, starting to panic.

I always try to learn a lesson from whatever obstacle is in placed in my way. Because I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, I try to see the lesson I’m supposed to learn. That day I thought I had the perfect plan in place but something completely out of the blue came in and changed it. We never know when something will get in our way causing us to adjust our plans, but we should always be prepared. I could just hear my daddy as if he were on the seat right beside me, “Mark, you should have left earlier and then this would not have been a problem.”

No one moves forward alone. We always have to depend on other people to help us along the way. It doesn’t matter who we are. To merge into one lane, someone has to give and allow someone else to go ahead. As I saw this process playing out in front of me, I noticed some people were more than willing to wave a car forward, while others gassed it to proceed first. I was raised to do the right thing, but I wondered if it counted when you were about to be late for a speaking engagement.

When it became my turn, for a split second I thought about charging forward but then remembered how the process of merging is supposed to work. I looked at the car beside me, smiled and waved them forward. Then I took my turn. Slowly but surely, we crept on and before we knew it, we were back up to the speed limit.

From that point in my trip until I arrived just in time at the place I was speaking, I thought of how we should all use the merging process in our daily lives. If we all push and shove at the same time, everyone stops and becomes deadlocked. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traffic jam, a difference of opinion, opposing ideas or clashes in personalities; we all need to put that aside and work together in order to move forward.

A quote by Kimora Lee Simmons I recently had read popped into my mind on the way home. “Life is a series of adjustments. You can make changes along the way, but if you don’t start moving forward, you’ll never get anywhere!” I had seen that happen right before my eyes on the interstate that morning. Otherwise, we would all still be sitting there. I suppose that was the lesson I needed to be reminded of. And just think, I received it while stuck on a road in a traffic jam.

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to; or subscribe to Mark’s page on Facebook.