I drive a minivan. Don’t be jealous. It’s been seven glorious years since my husband and I decided to take the plunge and purchase our little Honda house on wheels. To my mind, we made the right decision. From the ease of the automatic sliding doors when hands are juggling groceries, diaper bag, and baby carrier, to the times we’ve happily hauled gaggles of kids on field trips, it’s been a helpful tool in achieving our family’s version of domestic contentment. However, there have been definite downsides that demand address. “What is that smell?!” Don’t get me started on the joys of finding hidden-away “treasures” in the very back row. Suffice it to say, the heralded discovery of a new antibiotic may be in our future. But a much more pressing and troubling concern regularly plagues me. Everyone else on the road who is not a minivan driver is suffering from a severe case of M.V.D.S.
What exactly is M.V.D.S? Allow me to enlighten you since I’ve been studying it for nearly a decade now. Many of you have heard of or personally experienced Trump Derangement Syndrome. M.V.D.S. or Mini-Van Derangement Syndrome is a similar strain of cuckoo, but I contend that it is sadly much more pervasive in our culture and crosses all segments of socio-economic status, political persuasion, racial and gender boundaries.
What are the symptoms of this dreaded sickness? Consider the situation: I’m getting on the freeway via a two-lane on-ramp, patiently waiting at a traffic light which allows two cars onto the highway per green light. I see the quick, fleeting flash of the green and naturally push the pedal to the metal. It’s a V6 for goodness sake. No matter who is in the lane next to me—a smiling, doting grandma or the most passive, Christ-like pastor of the local parish, the minute they notice a mini-van gaining on them, they are overcome by an intense ‘need for speed.’
Think Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, but swap the fighter pilots for a senior citizen and priest.
Here’s what goes through most drivers’ minds with acute M.V.D.S. “Oh no she didn’t. I will not let that mini-van-driving-soccer-mom pass me. It’s my duty to leave her in my fumes.” Some of you are shaking your head no, thinking “one incident does not a syndrome make.” This is not a single or occasional occurrence. It is EVERY time, folks! And over the span of many years! Don’t forget, before I was a lame-o mommy in a mini-van, I drove normal cars. I’ve also driven my husband’s manly SUV on occasion. It is clear, most drivers treat me differently when I’m behind the wheel of any other vehicle. They are less threatened. How could a minivan possibly be more threatening than say a mud-covered jeep or a hulking ford truck with those raunchy Calvin and Hobbes window decals? The mini-van and all of its super square, grocery-getter ethos triggers something primitive in people that causes them to compare themselves through a lens of negativity. “I may be slow, but I’m not that slow! I may be lame, but I’m not that lame. I may drive a 1983 Yugo that has a lawn mower for an engine, but I will not be passed by a freaking minivan!”
Those of you smirking to yourselves right now—first off, shame on you! God sees how you treat the minivan driver. Secondly, realize this is a much bigger threat to our world than your smug faces care to admit. Shall we take a quick tour into the dark recesses of the soul of those suffering M.V.D.S.? It isn’t merely a major problem on the roadways of this country, its ill effects can be spotted all over. We see it especially in people’s moral and spiritual lives.
It’s part of our fallen human nature to judge ourselves through the lens of someone else’s shortcomings. We say, “well at least I’m not that bad. I mean she’s pretty bad, but I’m certainly better than she is.” In other words, we hit the gas and accelerate pass the poor schmucks, reveling in our own moral superiority. We pass them in the fast lane and take pleasure, if only briefly, that we have won this particular race. Look no further than your social media accounts. So many of us love to point out all the terrible people out there. We enjoy sanctimoniously expressing our outrage. Undoubtedly we follow up with, “But we would never!” We read countless news stories about how awful certain individuals are and then join the social media mob in an effort to shame them to death while speeding away full of pride in exposing such evil.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? —Matthew 7, 3
The #metoo movement is the perfect example. Suddenly everyone’s all high and mighty and has not said a single inappropriate thing in the course of their entire lives. “Harvey Weinstein is a monster! I, on the other hand, have never so much as looked at anyone sideways!” Granted, from all accounts he has committed crimes and horrid actions and deserves to be tried in a court of law. But should that be the measuring stick by which we judge our own behavior or shortcomings? Does trotting him out as an example of an evil black heart make us suddenly appear virtuous and good? One of the effects of M.V.D.S is that we never have a clear account of our own behavior. What car doesn’t look cool next to a minivan? What man doesn’t look like a Nobel Peace Prize Winner next to Harvey Weinstein? It causes us to settle for mediocrity at best when God created us to be exceptional. Drawing comparisons to the least common denominator does not impel us to greatness.
So how does one combat Mini-Van Derangement Syndrome in their faith journey? If we must compare ourselves, how about looking to the Saints? They have all been seriously road tested and yet have valiantly crossed the finish line. How do we measure up to a Maximilian Kolbe who inspired his fellow starving cellmates at Auschwitz to pray and sing hymns as their bodies suffered and shut down? How do we compare to Mother Teresa who gave up a life of relative comfort as a teaching nun to start an order that takes on an additional fourth vow: wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. We must strive to be like those who are the most virtuous among us. When we encounter those who have strayed, we must consider the words of St. Paul.
“For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.” —Rom 11:32
In other words, we are ALL sinners. Jesus died for each and every one of us. We must have the humility to realize we all fall short. In God’s eyes, we are ALL minivan drivers. Instead of blowing past others and leaving our brothers and sisters in our dust, we must pray for them and express the redemptive powers of God’s great mercy. We must expose our own shortcomings in the light of His grace.
Let’s help banish M.V.D.S. The next time you encounter a dorky minivan on the road, consider giving a wave and offer them the right of way. While made up disorders are a laughing matter, our eternal souls are not.