Bill Murphy ©2021
After Mommy and Daddy, one of the first words a child learns to say is WHY? It’s a word that parents will hear countless times! Even our Heavenly Father is asked this question! We’ve made WHY a very important part of our vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong: It’s most often a good thing to ask why! We learn things when we ask why… things we might have missed had we not asked.
My father illustrated this principle with one of the most powerful lessons he ever taught me. He did this in a story he told during the late 1940s. I was perhaps only in 1st or 2nd grade.
Our family was traveling from our home in Jackson, MS to Delhi, LA to visit his sister and family. This was in pre-interstate days, and much of our route was along two-lane US Highway 80.
Before reaching Vicksburg, where we’d cross the mighty Mississippi River, we crossed numerous smaller bridges spanning other rivers and creeks. As we approached one particular bridge (one that Dad referred to as the ‘new’ bridge) he told me the following story.
Years before, he said, there’d been a terrible storm with extremely heavy rains. The rain came down in torrents, making it difficult to see ahead. Rivers and creeks suddenly flooded and overflowed. And the bridge ahead (of us) suddenly washed away! One by one, because they could not see ahead clearly, drivers failed to stop in time and drove off and into the raging water below, to be swept away.
But one old black man, was driving slowly, and cautiously. He saw the danger ahead… and stopped! Then, he ran back down the highway, and frantically tried to warn approaching vehicles of the danger ahead.
But this was 1940s Mississippi. Ours was a land peopled by two separate and separated races… races divided by more than simply skin color. Sadly, then we were separated by trust, or rather, a lack of trust. Needlessly, irrational false-fear kept others from seeing the warning… and from failing to ask ‘why?’ They swerved around their potential savior and proceed on, into their watery deaths.
Thankfully, someone using their brain (and heart) stopped… and then another. Finally the ‘lemming-march’ was halted.
Although It was a quick lesson, told while driving across a simple bridge along an old asphalt highway, that story had a tremendous impact on me. The amazing thing is, it taught me a multitude of life-lessons, lessons which have stood with me for a life-time! It taught me far more than that it’s ok to ask why?
As he told it, Dad probably had no idea of the lasting impact it would have upon my life. He told it as if it were 100% true, and I’m certain that it is! My Dad was not one to make up stories… unless he admitted to the fiction. But try as I might, I’ve never been able to verify this event… as sad as it was. That old fellow who risked life and limb to save others, should be honored, should be remembered!
I hope that somehow, somewhere, that old fellow knows that the story of what he did meant a lot to me when I heard about it… and that it still does today!