For those of you who have had the opportunity to visit an African country or a developing one, you may have noticed that many of the public transportation vehicles have pithy statements inscribed on them. These statements stretch the full gamut from simple statements to more proverbial thoughts and religious quotes. Some of these are: ‘Great God of Wonders,’ ‘Miracle Babies,’ ‘Wisdom,’ ‘Chances,’ ‘Small boys are young,’ ‘The young shall grow,’ ‘Opportunity comes but once,’ ‘I Know…,’ ‘Time will Tell,’ and ‘God’s Time Is the Best.’ Some of these writings are captured in local dialects extolling a thought. Some are in honor, or in celebration of, life. The interesting bit about these thoughts - on automobiles, or even corner stores - is that some do not even make any sense, and yet folks write them anyway, after all, whoever has anything written on their automobile knows and understands exactly why.
The one statement that readily comes to my mind, especially during this current pandemic, was once written on a type of truck that was referred to as a boneshaker. Boneshakers were old, open-trailer, Bedford trucks used as taxis. The minimal, manufactured parts were the engine, the hood, the windshield, and the interior covering the steering wheel and dashboard. The trailer itself was bare, and so to make it more efficient, people used wood to build a body and roof over the trailer. The truck contained neither doors nor windows. The chairs were more like benches, and passengers were required to climb up and sit in rows on these benches. One good thing - it's incredibly airy!!
On one of these boneshakers was written Shall Pass. And in this case, the owner of the truck was also nicknamed Shall Pass. Many were those who new Shall Pass because he’s owned that boneshaker for years.
An interesting part of the culture was the interaction between those who own or drive these vehicles and passengers or acquaintances. Whenever one meets the owner (Shall Pass), you will hear ‘Shall Pass.’ He will respond to each greeting ‘All Shall Pass.’ Another example of the interaction between owners of these vehicles and passengers and acquaintances is a story of a gentleman who lived across from my grandfather’s house. He traveled to Germany, and on his return brought a car. Unfortunately, he lost his wife-Aunt Lizzie right after he returned from Germany. In celebration of her life, he turned the car into a taxi and had “Aunt Lizzie” written on it. Wherever he drove to, you would hear screams of ‘Aunt Lizzie.’ In response, he would honk his horn in acknowledgement and appreciation.
I never had the chance to ask Shall Pass about the pithy statement on his boneshaker, or why he responded in the way that he did. But I am very sure that he understood in a much deeper way, like most of us do, that nothing lasts forever, that everything passes. As you may have heard before, everything and everyone gets their moment in the sun. Yes, the sun shines but it does not shine on one place forever. The sun rises and goes down at the end of each day, with no single moment in the sun lasting forever.
This pandemic has been shattering. I wake up in the morning, and I wonder… sometimes, feelings of anger, depression, and disappointment come over me. And I often feel like giving up. But over the past several days, I have been encouraged by the picture of the boneshaker with Shall Pass embossed on it. I wish I could go back in time and ask, "Why? Why did you capture my imagination with that pithy statement many, many years ago? What experience informed that decision? What is it that made you so hopeful that you rested in the assurance and comfort that all shall pass?"
In scripture, we also get a sense that nothing lasts forever. Situations of a siege, occupation, famine, hunger, epidemic, harassment, war, enslavement, persecution, subjugation, and even peace do not last forever. If they did, we would not be here. But it is precisely because they do not that is why we take comfort in the words of Jesus that heaven and earth shall pass away but His Words will not. There’s a great deal of assurance in those words, for if we didn’t know what it is that we can rely on in this, our time of need, now we know that we can rely, depend, thrive, and live on those Words of our risen Savior that will not pass away.
In as much as the boneshaker has never meant more to me today than it did when I was a kid, I am also encouraged by the words of Paulo Coelho: “Nothing lasts forever…pain and troubles included.” This, too, shall pass. This pandemic, the pain and troubles that are associated with it, all shall pass.
So, this Easter season, assuming you have a boneshaker, what shall you write on it?