For the past five years, I’ve lived on the beautiful coast lands of Georgia…specifically St. Simons Island. Everyday for five years, I go back and forth across the St. Simons causeway to visit the hospitals, take my kids to school, shop, play golf, or just visit. And every time I travel across that causeway, I see this sign. The sign warns me to be cautious. I am warned to look out for terrapin turtles crossing the road. They are endangered on the coast and we do all we can to ensure their survival.
Honestly, as many times as I’ve been across that causeway, I have never seen ONE terrapin crossing the road – even from May to July. Nope, not one. As a matter of fact, I haven’t even seen a dead terrapin that someone has run over. Not one.
Based on my own personal experience, I might wonder a few things:
- Do terrapin turtles actually exist?
- Do terrapin turtles actually cross the road?
- When/If people run over a terrapin turtle, do they stop, pick it up, take it home and make soup?
- Are terrapin turtles amazingly more brilliant than we think and when they see a car coming they say to themselves, “are you kidding me? I’m not crossing the street now!”
I know terrapins exist. I don’t know the answer to any of the other questions. But here’s what I do know…
Biologists and scientists I know and trust on St. Simons and Jekyll Islands tell me that over 115 terrapins are killed each year by motor vehicles on the causeways from St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. They do intensive studies and find the mostly female turtle carcasses along the causeways in their search for high, dry ground to lay their eggs along the roads. A seriously endangered species with over 800 fatalities in the past 7 years on two short Georgia causeways. I had no idea.
And in thinking about terrapins, I also thought about so many other things in my life that I never see…that I don’t really pay much attention to…that I think don’t matter…and yet when the dust settles, many of those thing matter deeply. As a pastor, I should know that by now. I see people everyday who ignore the signposts of life. The signs caution us to speak kindly, love deeply, give generously if we really want to experience the fullness of life. But we don’t see the immediate connection of our small actions, so we just keep driving down the roads of life focused on our own needs and concerns. We ignore the signs at our own peril. We begin to believe that if we don’t see the lives negatively affected by our neglect they must not exist. Yet, all along the roads of our lives there may be the carcasses of friends, families, and our own well being.
Remember, just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Just because we don’t see the harm done to others by our words and actions, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Just because we don’t see the fruit of a simple act of kindness, love, or generosity doesn’t mean they aren’t transforming the world around you.