Last week, I sat behind the steering wheel of a rental car on Highway 99, driving north. Los Angeles behind me, Northern California ahead. I found myself in the third lane from the right, trailing an old Volkswagen van. It was probably red once, but the years had turned the paint color to a burnt orange. Stickers with logos I didn’t recognize were scattered across the windows, and the rear bumper hung crookedly off the back.
For the next mile or so (before I got tired of going so slowly behind it), I watched the broken piece bump and jostle with every crack and pothole. I smiled to myself, and thought, “Yea, me too.”
The day I went back to work after a blissful ten days at home, I walked in with the kind of confidence that comes only at the start of a new year.
I can do this! So what if I have to leave tomorrow for a work trip? So what if I have to travel for seven days next week? So what if I don’t have enough hours to do all the things? I’ll make them enough! I’m New Year New Me! I can accomplish anything!
And then I cracked my computer screen by mid-afternoon.
Minor setback! You can STILL do this!
And then I packed everything I needed for my trip except my phone charger (hi, this is very important because – GPS).
No worries! You have $15. You can go get a new one. It’ll be great! You can never have too many!
And then my faithful suitcase started to wobble in ways it hadn’t before, and the handle jammed at an inconvenient place.
It’s okay. You just have to get it to baggage check. And to the rental car. And up to your room. Not a big deal.
And then I discovered the charger I brought for my computer did LITERALLY NOTHING when I plugged it in.
That’s okay. This is fine. You’ll just work from your phone. Problem solved.
And then I opened my suitcase and discovered that my curling iron had broken in half on its last trip through the Las Vegas baggage claim.
EVERYTHING IS STILL FINE.
When I saw the dangling rear bumper bouncing on the road before me, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and think about how 2019 seems to have started off a little bit broken.
Because of the broken piece at the back of the van, the vintage van looked rundown, fit only for the scrapyard. The rust and dirt and jostling parts made it look tired and less than capable of highway travel.
But it wasn’t.
Wheels were still turning. Engine was still running. Miles were still being covered. Being a little bit broken didn’t stop it. It made it stand out.
The little broken pieces of my life this week were small annoyances in the grand scheme of things (except for the curling iron, because y’all know that’s a significant tragedy). Nothing was life-threatening or devastating. Just small pieces of broken parts.
Sometimes the things that are broken are small, like legos on a bare foot. And sometimes they’re big, like a piano falling from several stories high. Sometimes they break one after the other, and sometimes they wait until you’re seated and comfortable until they decide to break again.
But the music from your beat up stereo trades places with the wind that whips through the cracks in the window. People watch and stare and say, “Look at that engine still running, still moving to fulfill its purpose, even with a broken bumper. Even with rust on the door handles and chipped paint on the hood.”
Would you look at that?
Give a little grace to the broken pieces in your life and to the people all around you. Commit to trying again when you break something else. Don’t let a broken bumper ruin your ride today.
Remember that dropping broken pieces off at a junkyard cuts them off right at the very moment they were about to say something significant to a watching world. Drive them through life instead and smile with joy behind the wheel. Be a reminder to those driving beside you that just because things are a little bit broken doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a ride down Highway 99.