Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is There an Upside to Driving Less?

By Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Outreach Associate

As I entered winter quarter of my senior year at Seattle University I decided to try observing the sabbath. I'll admit, it didn't feel like a convenient time to take a day off every week. And yet, I had to because the stress from school and work was making me sick, literally. My body seemed to be saying "Could you slow down please...? Cause if you don't I'm going to the form of no longer digesting your food." I decided to listen, and stumbled upon one of the most significant practices of my faith life thus far.

Now as I am working at Earth Ministry I have the opportunity to talk about the blessings of my sabbath practice in relationship to the environment. Most recently I have written about sabbath and transportation choices. Granted, it is not the most intuitive union but hold your skepticism long enough to hear me out.

Marjorie Thomas states in her book Soul Feast that certain limits can be life-restoring. In our more-is-always-better consumer culture the concept of limits can make us bristle. But as observers of the sabbath we can understand the fullness of life that comes when we observe a weekly limit. By observing the limit of the sabbath we acknowledge our own humility and God's control over all.

Amazingly it takes me about twenty-four hours at the end of each week to get to the point when I actually believe I'm not in charge of the universe. When I take time to remember this on Sunday, I am more likely to look to the actual ruler of the universe throughout the other six days of the week.

In our more-is-always-better consumer culture the concept of limits makes us bristle. But as observers of the sabbath we can understand the fullness of life that comes when we observe a weekly limit.

This is one way in which the sabbath applies to transportation choices. There are a number of ways we can observe a sabbath in our transportation lifestyles:

  • Commit to car-pooling to Sunday service, giving God's creation an opportunity to rest from the extra emissions given off when every family drives alone.
  • Plan a monthly or weekly car-free day. Take this time to rest from the stress of racing around in traffic.
  • Advocate for public transit development and funding. Personal automobile centered transportation systems place the burden of pollution on all of creation. Transportation Choices Coalition has information about how to become informed about transportation issues.

By making a few small changes in our lifestyles, or limiting ourselves a bit we become more aware of how small we are in the context of world issues such as global climate change. This humility will benefit us as well as God's creation.

The life-giving aspects of these limits are not only felt on a global scale but right in our own families and friendships. Reducing the amount of time we spend alone in the car increases the fellowship time we have with family and friends. Sharing public transit strengthens a community's commitment to providing these valuable resources for all. Biking or walking puts us out into the wind, rain and sun of God's creation.

The Coalition on Jewish Life and the Environment quotes Samson Raphael Hirsch, a 19th Century Orthodox Jewish Rabbi sharing a profound description of the sabbath:

'Sabbath in our time! To cease for a whole day from all business, from all work, in the frenzied hurry-scurry of our time? To close the exchanges, the workshops and factories, to stop all railway services--great heavens! How would it be possible? The pulse of life would stop beating and the world perish! 'The world perish? On the contrary--it would be saved."

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