The Right Perspective

Economic troubles should never overshadow what’s most important

We’ve all been flooded with news of just how terrible the economy is and how much worse it could become before things gets better. Bankruptcies, layoffs, cutbacks and slow freight are enough to bring the most optimistic person to his or her knees.

We don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way by the financial troubles we find ourselves in. Some drivers have it worse than others due to different factors in their respective lives. The only solace is we’re all in the same boat – though we each may be looking for a different life preserver.

In times like these we tend to lose focus on the big picture and get caught up in the moment. We’re so busy wallowing in the negative that we forget how resilient we really are. More importantly, we forget to enjoy life with the people we care for most. I recently was reminded of this when I got what has become an annual Christmas card from Cindy Drye of Shreveport, La.

Donald Drye, Cindy’s husband and team driver, was killed in 2004 in a blinding dust storm in Arizona after he had dropped off Cindy and their three children at home. The kids were getting ready for the school year. He was continuing on with a delivery bound for California. I wrote a column to his kids – Joshua, Matthew and Misty – about their father and the decisions and sacrifices he made.

Every Christmas since, I’ve received a card and a Christmas music CD at my home from Cindy and her kids. I, in return, mail her a holiday picture of my kids.

I was a little surprised that Cindy sent me a card this year with money being so tight for everyone. But it made me feel good getting her well-wishes this holiday season. It offered a measure of comfort. For reasons not entirely definable, we both needed to continue the tradition.

Reinforcing the idea of putting things into perspective was a trucker and journalist who suffered a devastating loss in early January. Dave Sweetman, once a contributor to this magazine and now a respected competitor, got a call that his wife had unexpectedly fallen ill shortly after he left to make a delivery. He returned home in time to say goodbye to her shortly before she died.

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I stumbled across a posting he had put on a trucking website message board. After detailing the tragedy, which he prefaced by saying he wasn’t writing it for sympathy or pity, he candidly drove home his message.

“Today everything is changed and I only wish that those of you on the road or at home would remember this: Never, ever miss the opportunity to tell those dear to you that you love them,” Sweetman wrote. “Never miss the chance for a laugh or a smile. And never treat it as just another day, as though tomorrow will be the same, because you may not have that chance to go back and make it better.”

A colleague who read Sweetman’s post sent me an e-mail pondering the number of times a trucker loses a spouse, child or parent while on the road. Far too many, I’m afraid. I’ve had several calls over the years about this. A couple of years ago, we even did a cover piece about how truckers handle getting tragic news while on the road.

It’s so easy to get caught up in negativity and lose sight of the things that are most important. The economy will come back. And the cyclical trucking industry will lead the way. Sure, we’ve got to be smart about our decisions to weather this downturn, but it can’t dominate our lives.

We have to make the most of today professionally, but more important, personally. The important things transcend careers, competition and money. And sometimes we just need to be reminded.