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Jesus, Take the Wheel

By David Palmieri

On the Catholic-Conversations homepage, there is a quotation from Paula D’Arcy that reads, God comes to us disguised as our lives. But I often wonder, how? God doesn’t check on me in the same way he patrolled the Garden for Adam and Eve, nor have I ever received angelic visitors like Abraham or Jacob.

Our faith gives us hints about how God works in our lives: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel (Mt 1:23). The name Emmanuel means, “God is with us.” We find God and God finds us in the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life.

My friend, Wayne, turns 80 this month. He and his wife, Shiela, are some of the most wonderful people I will ever meet on this journey of life. While on a three-week road trip to visit family and friends, Wayne took time to write and tell me of one of these ordinary unspectacular moments when God came to him disguised as his life. Here's Wayne's story in his own words.

Sharply at 9:08 AM Monday morning we began our 3,000-mile round trip to visit friends and family in the eastern US. Traffic was normal for Massachusetts on I-495 and I-90. I-84 in northern Connecticut was light but got heavy as we approached Hartford.

While still east of Hartford, I heard a rapid thumping and checked my side mirrors. One of the right trailer wheels had grown arms and was flailing them about. I pulled over to the breakdown lane and noticed I was being tailed by a Connecticut State Trooper car with lights on. The Trooper said there was a wide spot just a few hundred feet ahead and I should pull in there, which I did. He stayed with me.

Some would say that it was lucky that the eagle-eyed Trooper was right there and that it was lucky that there was a wide spot to safely replace the tire. I do not believe in luck, but I firmly believe that God is always in control.The senior Trooper helped me remove the totally shredded rear tire and replace it with the spare. I put the trashed wheel in the bed of my F250 pickup and thanked the Trooper profusely. He told us not to let this incident ruin our vacation.

We arrived at our campground in Scotrun, PA only a little later than planned and got a good night's sleep.

Being a person who likes to take precautions, I was uneasy that I no longer had a spare. But what were the odds that it would happen again before we got to Kentucky, where we would have several days to replace the spare? The last time I had a flat in any vehicle was the early 70s, so I decided to press on.

On Tuesday the campground where we planned to stay in Mercer, PA was full, so we diverted to a nearby Kampgrounds of America. We got off at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, on our way to Oregonia, OH. However, at around mile 55 on I-71 South, passing cars were giving me signals. When I looked in the left side mirror, I saw that the front tire on that side of the trailer had grown arms and was flailing them around.

I pulled over to the breakdown lane and again a police car was right behind me. This time it was a sergeant of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Like in Connecticut, the sergeant pointed out that there was an abandoned weigh station not 200 feet ahead. I thought about calling Good Sam Camping Club, but there was nothing they could do because I did not have a spare trailer tire—and neither would they. The highway patrolman gave me the name of a tire company and said I could disconnect my trailer and drive my truck to the shop to get the tire fixed. That would get me back on the road.

Here is where the story gets really interesting.

There was another truck at the weigh station, a road trailer and tractor. The trucker came over to help get the newly destroyed wheel off my trailer and put it in the bed of my truck. He said that he was waiting for a tire truck to arrive in half an hour, and he gave me the phone number for Best-One Tire and Service of Mid America.

I called and gave the man on the phone the tire information for the two tires I needed. Then it dawned on me that my trailer tires were coming to an end in dramatic fashion, one after the other. So I asked if he had four tires of the right size—and he did! He said he would throw them in the truck for me.

Twenty minutes later, the tire truck arrived and replaced all four tires with new ones—but instead of the original C load rating, the tires were increased to load range E, which is a much heavier load rating. Now all four tires match! And I have a spare!

We arrived in camp in Oregonia at 4:15 PM, some 2-1/2 hours later than planned, but well in time for supper. In the morning, we will head for Gilbertsville, KY, confident that we will have no further tire problems.

No one is ever going to convince me that all of this was just a lucky coincidence. I firmly believe that God set the whole thing up for us.

Thanks be to God!


David Palmieri teaches at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, MA. Recently, David won the Lead, Learn, Proclaim Award from the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). The award recognizes individuals whose “dedication, faith, knowledge and skills fulfill the mission of Catholic education.”

David is also the founder of Without Exception - a network of Catholic secondary educators dedicated to discerning the art of accompaniment for LGBTQ+ students in Catholic schools. Through a commitment to faithful dialogue and peer collaboration, Without Exception members seek to understand what it means to share the love of Jesus Christ with every person, without exception.

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