Shimming Across the Potomac!


In 1980 I was working in Washington D.C. at a food wholesale outlet. At the time I was living in the outskirts of D.C. and was driving a 1966 Ford Mustang. This Mustang was unique in that the gas gauge was broken and I never knew how much gas I had in the tank. Being newly married I was always long on dreams but short on funds. Consequently I always pushed the car to the limit before I would fill it up. Needless to say, I ran out of gas on a number of occasions. One morning as I drove to work my car started to sputter and much to my consternation I once again found myself stranded on the side of the road having once again run out of gas.  However I was only a couple of miles from work so I quickly abandoned my car and started to run to work in hopes that I might still make it on time.

I was confident that I could make it to work on time if I hustled.  My mood quickly changed as I approached a bridge that ran over the Potomac River. It was my only way to get to the city and on to work. At first glance it appeared to me that I could easily cross it.  The bridge was only about 100-200 yards in length. However as I surveyed the task at hand I noticed that there were no shoulders on the bridge for pedestrians to cross, and the two lanes that ran across it were filled with speeding cars.  I made a quick assessment that I could cross it by walking on the concrete side of the bridge, which measured about 4-5 ft wide. Having complete faith in my athletic abilities I jumped on top of the bridge and started to walk across it. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I was in deep trouble. With cars zooming by me on my left and to my right I could see that a fall from that distance into the Potomac would kill me.  With no room for error, my nerves were further shaken when a passing motorist yelled out his window “Jump, Jump!”. He must have thought I was attempting suicide and although I wasn’t I was beginning to think that only a fool would attempt such a stupid act. With death facing me on both my left and right, I lost my nerve and sat down on the bridge with my legs apart. I started a slow shimmy across the bridge with cars zooming by on one side and the Potomac looming on the other.

Over time I made it across the bridge with my life intact. But looking at my watch it was clear that I was going to be very late in reporting to work. I started to sprint to work and arrived a few minutes later only to be chastised by the owner for my tardiness. I remember thinking to myself “He has no idea what I did to get here. If he knew I had risked my life just to be here he would not have reprimanded me.”

Sometimes we judge others because we don’t have the knowledge that many have “shimmied across the Potomac” just to get to church or  in fulfilling an assignment. For some, just getting out of bed each morning is equivalent to “shimming across the Potomac”. We need to be loving  and learn to accept the offering of those around us and not be so critical.  The Savior taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matt 7:1-2).

Remember,  the day may come when we find ourselves “shimming across the Potomac” either spiritually or physically. We will want the love, kindness and understanding of our fellowmen to support us during those times.   Let us be kind and patience because often we don’t know what others are going through.


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