Michelle Martin

Trafficking in prayer

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How often do you pray for good traffic? If you’re like me, quite a bit. I live in Chicago, which is perennially near the top of the list when it comes to traffic congestion in the United States. I have three kids in three different schools, including one kindergartner, which means I can’t be late to pick her up. My son plays hockey, a sport that comes with lots of driving. His team’s home rink is about 15 miles from his school.

There have been days I’ve gotten in my car after work to do the afternoon round of mom’s bus service and not gotten out — except to fetch or deliver Teresa — until I reach home more than two hours later. Never mind that my end point is only about seven miles from the starting point, a distance I could have walked in less time.

To keep myself sane, I’ve started considering traffic as a force of nature, something like the weather. It’s immutable and unavoidable and when it’s bad, you really can’t do anything about it besides leave enough time and drive carefully. But we humans have been praying for good weather for millennia, so why can’t we pray for good traffic?

Don’t worry; I’ll pray for good weather, too. After all, living and driving in Chicago, it’s near impossible to have good traffic in bad weather, a fact that was driven home during our most recent sleet/ice/snow storm.

That was the day I had to leave work downtown, pick up Teresa at her babysitter’s house, pick up Frank from home and drive to Bensenville for a hockey game. I sent him on to a second hockey game in Buffalo Grove that evening and drove home with Teresa, in rush hour in a snowstorm, expecting my husband to be able to get to Frank’s second game and bring him home.

That didn’t work — a combination of having to work late, minor car trouble and, yes, traffic, delayed my husband, so I ended up leaving Teresa at home with Caroline, got back in the car and drove to Buffalo Grove to get Frank.

That was when I prayed the rosary, for my husband, who was cold and frustrated after a long day, for my patience in yet more traffic, for the safety of everyone on the road that night. Just when I finished the Joyful Mysteries, my husband texted to say he was home.

The feeling that maybe my prayer helped stayed with me as I waited for a jackknifed truck to be moved enough to allow traffic to pass on the exit ramp where I was stuck.

I made it to the game, and, maybe even more remarkable, was able to work the car out of my parking space afterward. By the time we left, the snow had almost stopped and traffic was moving faster, although we did pass another jackknifed truck.

When the garage door shut behind us at home, I offered another brief prayer of thanksgiving.

Let’s all offer prayers that everyone stays safe on the roads this winter.