On Driving and Unsurpassable Worth

by Tara Livesay on July 29, 2013

Jesus said things.

‘Love your neighbor’,

‘Love one another’,

‘Love your enemies’.

As we go about our day in the capital city of Port au Prince, we are frequently given a chance to demonstrate a higher level Jesus-variety-type of love.  In the reverse we are given a chance to be an overtly aggressive giant ass that makes the local population shake their head in disgust.

In full disclosure, I fear that I must admit that the latter is more my natural bent. I don’t stay a demonstrator of high-level love when sitting with a steering wheel in my hands. Jesus didn’t specifically say, “Love the guy shoving his car up into yours making it impossible to move.” But, being a quick study, something tells me that maybe that guy falls under the “love your enemies” heading. I don’t know about you, but I feel like my enemies multiply in developing world traffic gridlock.

These things happen, then more of these things happen:

  • While in sitting-still-traffic, cars and trucks will jam up against you on every side, creating “lanes” where a lane-never-once-existed or even thought about existing.
  • Three inches between cars all headed the same direction is not seen as worrisome to most drivers in Port au Prince.
  • Brushing driver-side mirrors with oncoming traffic is not uncommon or worth talking about.
  • While you wait to turn left, in what is theoretically the only left turn lane, someone will come up on the left (technically in the lane of oncoming traffic) to turn left to the left of you. (That is not to say that someone won’t also turn left from the right side of you.)
  • As you approach a line up of traffic and cars not moving, cars from behind you will come around you on either side of you and try to get into the standing still line before you.
  • Slow down to be polite to someone turning into your lane or direction of traffic, the car behind you will honk and be annoyed with you for not jamming up against the next car ASAP like the rest of the insane world.
  • When the intersection is complete grid lock and there is literally ZERO movement in any direction, save the wind, a giant blaring MAC truck horn will blow unceasingly. (Because that’s helpful.)
  • None of this is forbidden. There aren’t really “rules” per se. There are a few intersections in the city that are notoriously ridiculous. 
Between that sort of nonsensical driving, too many cars on very rough, insufficient roads, and many hours spent in those conditions on certain days, it can sometimes cause a person to feel enraged. I’m telling you, it is challenging. Perhaps this does not resonate with some expats or Haitians, but we have found one of the very hardest places to keep Jesus in our mind and actions and words – is from behind the wheel on the roads of Port au Prince. A patient person becomes impatient. A mellow and happy person becomes quite irritable.

My better half, Troy, starts out as a more cool-headed driver than I do; no news flash there. Driving makes me agitated. I try not to go far very often. My over-developed sense of justice just cannot take it. I am very much a “lets take turns and be fair” kind of person and the lack of polite turn taking pushes every hideous button in my soul.

When I do drive I have to talk to myself about it first. I need to say things like, “It doesn’t matter that it is not fair.  It doesn’t matter if someone is rude. Your job is to be polite and calm.” Some days are really okay and I might not even get annoyed.  On a really good day it is all funny and entertaining. On a bad day it feels like everyone is trying to crash into my precious children and it is harder to keep from muttering curse words at the idiocy of it all while employing the “if I cannot beat em, I’ll join em strategy”. It’s madness I tell you.

Recently Troy and I were together at an intersection that was meeting every single qualification for high level annoyance. It was the type of annoyance that can quickly morph into anger. Troy was driving. I was the passenger. As the less refined driver, I was watching him closely. It was truly everything I described in the list above. Troy kept making sweeping arm motions toward other drivers while saying out loud, “unsurpassable worth” –  “unsurpassable worth” – “see there? unsurpassable worth!”  – as jack-asses plowed into the intersection from every which way causing the already difficult situation in that intersection to become more chaotic, more ridiculous.

I was impressed that the statement itself seemed to calm my annoyance from the passenger seat. I accused him of showing off and being uber-spiritual but he said, no, it is important for him to actually think those words. He needs to literally remind himself of that in order to keep from getting very angry at times.I think I’ll try this the next few times I come up against insanity on the roads to find out if it works. I also think I’ll try it when I read the news, or see friends fighting about politics or whatever-thing on Facebook, or when someone lies to me, or steals or cheats.

Annoyed with someone?  Repeat after me: Unsurpassable worth, unsurpassable worth… Unsurpassable worth. Fine, be annoyed … but if keeping the annoyance from turning to rage or bad behavior is a sub-goal of yours, just try it with me. Jesus told us each and every one has unsurpassable worth; that all alone they are worth the price He paid.

Yes, even drivers in Haiti. 

Tara Livesay – works with women (and drives) in Port au Prince, Haiti
Blog: Livesayhaiti.com    Twitter: @TroyLivesay
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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries - Maternity Center working in the area orphan prevention, Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 27 to 9 years old and has recently become a grandmother to 3 grandsons. Tara enjoys friends, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family.
  • Janell Poulette

    It sounds like the traffic in Mexico City. We have lived here 10 years and we will still never get used to the way they drive. All the things you listed above happen here. Not sure if they do this in Haiti but when someone is behind you and they want to pass you they put on their left blinker. Or they will flash their lights at you like they are yelling – Get out of my way!!
    I don’t drive much outside of our neighborhood. The closeness of all the car kind freak me out 🙂

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  • Helen Sworn

    It is so encouraging to read this.. I have lived and worked in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for 14 years and every time I drive to work or anywhere I have an almost accident and have turned into a most ungracious and aggressive driver.. thanks for being so honest..

  • Abby Blackmon

    I am imagining more than one intersection on more than one day in Port au Prince! I applaud you and Troy in so many ways. For your work, your HUGE hearts, your precious children, the ministry that is your daily life. And while I do drive in Haiti (not yet anyway), I too have spiritual mantras that remind me just how big our God is. . .i hate to fly. Hate it. And I live in Knoxville, TN where, in order to get to PaP the 5-6 times I come each year, I must board 3 planes. I also board 3 planes going home. That’s 6 flights, 5 or 6 times a year. 30-36 plane rides each year, and I HATE to fly. So, I have learned a short prayer, which is my “unsurpassable worth!” — “You are the God of this plane, you are The Lord of my life” with every take off and nearly every landing. Works better than Ativan ever could. I am praying for good time and rest for your family over these next few months, Tara. And I pray our paths will cross soon.
    Abby Blackmon,
    Medical director, Harvest Field Ministries

  • Mary (http://owlhaven.net)

    This is funny and fabulous, Tara. Might help with frustrating parenting moments too. 🙂


  • Karen Yingling

    I think I will try this in LA traffic! And in my house. and at my kids school pick up lines. and…and….and….

  • Matthew Wright

    Tara, you have perfectly described the traffic in Tirana, Albania – as well as the struggle in my heart when I drive there. It also applies when walking through said traffic or riding a bicycle through it. Another missionary friend was preaching and reminded us to “bless those that curse you” – literally one of the hardest things I have remember when I am driving. Thank you for honesty, and Thanks to Troy for a new catch phrase while I drive! (I got a taste of PaP driving with my brother, Chris R who works with Clean Water for Haiti, earlier this year. I felt like I was at home in Albania)

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    I got insanely busy and did not come back to read these comments until now (a month later) — thanks for the feedback everyone.

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