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Kent Bernhardt: The “B” Factor

A few days ago, I was involved in what I hope will be my last automobile accident.

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, and instead of taking my usual route home on congested Interstate 85, I opted for the scenic route through the country. I was enjoying an iced tea from Zaxby’s, the radio was blaring my favorite ’60s tunes, and ironically, the thought going through my head was how blessed I’ve been in life.

As I approached an intersection, to my left I noticed a Chrysler approaching a stop sign. Unfortunately, the driver of that car failed to notice the sign, and before I could think of a way around my destiny, his car slammed into my Kia’s passenger door on the driver’s side.

What followed was a scene similar to one you see in the movies. The deafening sound of a crash, a blurry spin, and the momentary realization that I was caught up in the one thing I hoped to avoid the rest of my life.

The good news is, I’m here to tell the tale. The news wasn’t so good for my Kia.

Witnesses to the crash told me I nearly flipped, but my vehicle managed to land on all four wheels after spinning into a ditch. The side air bags, which I now highly recommend, did their job beautifully. I walked away with a minor scrape and the usual lingering soreness that accompanies such an event.

In fact, my body feels similar to the way it felt after being injured at one of my junior high school football games. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the middle of the fourth quarter with the score tied, and I fell off the bench.

All joking aside, I was one of the lucky ones. The accident could’ve been far worse. In fact, less than twenty-four hours later, a man lost his life on that same stretch of highway.

I’m naturally grateful for the family, good friends, and even strangers who rushed to my aid that day. I’m certain they all had better things to do with their Sunday afternoon, but they thought enough of me to come running. Together, we stood in that grassy field, surveyed the damage, shook our heads, and talked calmly until my pulse returned to normal.

Now, the sermon.

We seldom know what’s headed our way on any given day. We can make our plans, but there may be other elements in our future we know nothing about. I choose to think these things aren’t a plan at all. They’re moments that come out of the blue.

My co-workers like to describe these as the “A” factors and the “B” factors in life. The “A” factors are the things we can control. If I eat too much, I’m going to feel miserable. Since eating too much is something I can control, I know what to do to prevent the outcome of a stomach ache.

The “B” factors are beyond our control. It’s usually a “B” factor that changes your entire destiny.

Nothing really prepares you for “B” factors. You can toss scenarios around in your head like “What am I going to do if this plane I’m on starts going down?” but you can never truly answer such a question. It’s different when you’re actually there.

Someone once told me, “Let yourself go limp if you’re in a car accident. You’ll suffer less muscle trauma.” That was about the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

I learned that Sunday afternoon at the moment of impact, there’s no time to compose a thought at all. Later, your head is full of them.

“I wonder what would have happened if I had swerved sooner?”

“I wish I had gone home another way.”

“I’m glad I don’t need new underwear.”

But we don’t get to plan these events, and we certainly don’t get a do-over. The lucky ones like me get to go home and sleep in their own beds that night. Too many people aren’t that lucky.

So what can we do?

Mainly just love life, and let it love us. We can’t know how much we have left. Thank God for each moment and each challenge. And thank Him for each person in your life, even the people who get on your nerves.

Avoid the drama that swirls around you. Too many people left this world wishing they had made amends. How hard is it to say “I love you” instead of “I’m never speaking to you again”? The anger we hold on to is never worth it.

And finally, make sure you’re wearing clean underwear.

Well, that’s leftover advice from our mothers, and it’s really not very practical. Trust me, if this ever happens to me again, my underwear will be the first casualty.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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