The Deadly Power of Rushing About
"I don't think we should buy a car."
I was standing in the kitchen washing a pan as he nonchalantly let his words escape. The pan slipped from my grasp, I turned, and said, "Say that again."
"I don't think we should buy a car," Tim repeated.
We were one month into our move from the U.S. to Oxford, and for the past week we had been looking for a vehicle to replace our Old Rover that we had sold to friends before me moved. We had rented a car up until this point, and now we were at the point we had no car.
The first few days I was very antsy. Coming from America, where I simply jumped in my vehicle, sometimes several times a day to drive somewhere, I was starting to feel a bit of cabin fever.
"The bus system is amazing here. There's literally a stop right outside of our door."
He was right about that. Oxford's bus system is top-notch. With so many students and internationals, the public transportation system has to be stellar. But, still ...
"We have three young pixies, babe, what if we need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night?" I asked.
"Then we call a cab or an ambulance." England has National Health Insurance, which means that in emergencies, if you need an ambulance, it's free. Just call 999 and it's all taken care of.
I let his words simmer in my spirit. There is security in having a car. There is freedom in being able to leave my house whenever I want and go wherever I choose. But, what would our life look like if we did things a little differently over here? What if we chose to go from a two-car family, to a no-car family. What would that look like?
The more I thought about it, the more I liked his suggestion. Yes, I was letting go of the convenience of having a car. Sure, it was stretching my mother-bear instincts of protecting my little ones by having the security of a vehicle. But, what if we did things differently?
And so we did. We chose to go carless these few years in Oxford.
The Beauty of Not Having a Car
The transition was not as hard as I thought. In fact, I found it quite relaxing to be able to sit back on the bus and read a book while the driver worried about traffic. I am able to sit and talk with my daughters and play "I spy".
And, truth be told, they love the bus. The pixies jump up and down yelling, "It's a top bus," every time the double decker picks us up. And, now, the buses to Botley are newly painted purple, which is even more thrilling for three little girls.
But, if I had to pick one thing having no car has taught us more than anything else, it is to slow down. To make intentional choices of when we choose to leave our house, and when to stay put.
In Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis's spiritual memoir, he recalls his childhood by saying, "I number it among my blessings that my father had no car ... the deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me."
Ah .. the deadly power of rushing about ...
How many days before I moved to Oxford did I jump in my car and rush about my day, not thinking twice about where I was going, why I was going there, and the level of stress it was creating on our family to be constantly rushing about? We instantly noticed a difference in our girl's behavior when we slowed down as a family.
The beauty of not having a car is that it forces you to do that ... slow down. We are no longer rushing about all day long. Our choices are intentional as to when we will leave the house, why we will leave the house, and what we will do when we leave the house.
The Liberation of Walking
The beauty of not having a car is that not only do we take the bus, but we also walk almost everywhere. I find myself walking the streets of Oxford and noticing things I might be too busy to notice otherwise: the cobblestone footpath, the spire casting a golden hue on the city, the pigeon picking up his daily bread.
Lewis continues his thoughts by stating, "I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet ... I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance ... the truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it 'annihilates space.' It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given."
Space. Distance in perspective. There is so much adventure and beauty to be taken in through walking. Whether walking through Christ Church meadow, University Park, Queens Lane, or Port Meadow, there are mysteries and magic just waiting to soothe away the deadly power of rushing about.
Sometimes before church, if we can get it all together, we will go in an hour early and walk Christ Church meadow. My heart fills with wonder as the girls run along the river bank and bells toll in the distance. I think to myself, we could be missing all this if we don't take the time to slow down.
Walk. And just be.
"It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten."
I pray that the spirit of adventure seeps itself into my girls as they behold the beauty of walking, the mystery of not rushing about, the wonder of taking time to slow down.
There's not a week that goes by without me saying to Tim, "The best decision we made in the UK was to not buy a car." For this season of our lives, it has been a wake up call to live the wonder of a life lived not rushing about.
When we eventually move back to the U.S., I pray we think about our use of a car differently. There is a power given to us when we own vehicles, and we are literally in the driver's seat as to what we do with that power.
I wonder what our lives would look like if we didn't give rushing about power over us; if we took more walks and found the adventures along the pathways waiting for us. We might all live and breathe a little more deeply.