By John Latta
Executive Editor
[email protected]

I don’t suppose it’s a good idea to have a 3-year-old drive an 18-wheeler. But maybe some big rig drivers need to be more like 3-year-olds.

Everything is potentially fascinating to a 3-year-old. They’re constantly finding something you or I might consider mundane, and they’ll get a look on their face that says “Wow!” Think of a bug, a flower, an old dog or a discarded piece of gum. They’ll touch it or smell it, listen to it, try to eat it or just stare at it in amazement. Every day, right outside your windscreen, are things you look at but don’t see, listen to but don’t hear, touch but don’t feel, smell but don’t inhale, eat but don’t taste. Now, a 3-year-old will let a few things slide by, disinterested, just like you do too many times a day. But more than most of you do, that 3-year-old will also seize on a whole passel of things that come through his or her day and just gape in awe.

I know, you’re saying “I understand that the world is full of small wonders, but I’d enjoy them a lot more if I was cruising along in a new Mercedes Benz, and I didn’t have to hurry, and I could find a really nice hotel at my leisure and maybe relax at the pool tomorrow instead of getting up at 4 a.m. and deadheading to nowhere.”

But should it be that way? Does our enjoyment of the small wonders of life depend on money or our jobs? There is no reason that it should be so.

Are those Mercedes drivers by the pool enjoying what God gave them or simply luxuriating in what they can afford? Being seen in an overpriced restaurant with rude waiters a few tables away from a minor celebrity or cruising on a multi-million dollar yacht is not inherently more nourishing to the soul or pleasant to the senses than hanging out with your buddies shooting pool or fishing with your kids in a muddy creek.

There’s a river here in town that settlers traveled hundreds of years ago. From the bridge I usually take over it you can look either way and you’ll see nothing but trees (in summer) and the sweep of the Black Warrior River. Sometimes coal barges are pushing up it or sliding down it, but usually it’s empty. For the moment it takes to cross I always look down and picture me, 200 and some years ago, sitting in a canoe, surrounded only by trees and water and doing what a 3-year-old would do. Mouth open, eyes wide and thinking “Wow! This new world, this America, what an endlessly fascinating place.” Those “Wow!” moments come to 3-year-olds all the time.

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Perhaps we just don’t see what the 3-year-old sees? Or are we perhaps – unlike 3-year-olds – embarrassed to be seen by other people, especially fellow truckers, oohing and aahing about something “only a child” would find fascinating?

There’ll be some drivers who are so cemented into the mindset that they are out there just to earn money for necessities that they forget that some necessities can’t be bought. Yes, we need the things that only money can buy, but we also need more “Wow!” moments in our lives. Look out your window as you roll along and wonder what a child might be seeing and thinking. You see trees and horses, barns, skyscrapers and bridges, factories, rivers and all sorts of people. So does the child. But at the end of the day the child has been through a hundred emotions, some wild flights of imagination and fits of giggling and smiling, while many of you have flatlined it.

We’re alive – the cold wind, hot sun and even aches and pains tell us we are, tell us we can feel and touch and hear and taste and see life. Some folks know how to do that so well they can make you smile just by their sheer joy of living. But not everyone finds it so easy.

So instead of taking an adult’s view of that steel mill town you’re dragging through, or getting bored by the desert or worried by rain clouds, slip on a pair of 3-year-old glasses and see the this new world, this America, as you used to see it when you were 3. Wow!