44 years. That’s the answer. The question is a little more drawn out, and should cause one to reflect in one’s soul. The quantitative answer here really isn’t satisfactory, and doesn’t tell the story or address quality of life, etc. I work hard to integrate an active lifestyle into daily life. On the day this picture was taken we needed 1 pound of butter, 1 quart of creamer, and a jar of pizza sauce. In my mind it makes no sense to drive a car that weighs 3,000 pounds four miles round trip to the grocery store.(yes, our little hybrid that can’t handle the snow too well weighs in at a hefty 1.5 tons). How can that make sense to anybody? So, on this day I emptied the bladder from my Camelbak and jogged the short distance on a convenient trail to the grocery store rather than take the car and potentially get stuck in the snow in our alley at that time. I must admit I did feel a bit weird at the store, but that’s just poppycock in my book. This just makes sense. I’ve spent time in some other countries, such as Haiti and Mexico, and it’s just expected that one walks or trots such distances in these places. Also, as a Christian I think there is an aspect of the soul for consideration that I really don’t have time to break down here. It’s a bit more nebulous and undefined, but it just seems that depending on a car for a trip acquiring 2.5 pounds of merchandise can lead to a hollowing out of one’s soul, even as the mid-section grows. There are many reasons, but over time this sort of mentality breeds laziness, an entitlement mentality when it comes to acquiring “things,” a disconnection from your community and physical environment, and a level of busyness that is wholly unwarranted if you aren’t President of the United States. It also encourages inactivity in our children. Surely I could go on, and eventually I’ll develop this further. I find that walking, running, or biking for such errands reduces the amount that I acquire out of sheer necessity. Everything purchased requires careful thought and planning, which is always a good thing. Now it just so happens that this is also considered “green.” For some reason there are those in the faith community that would look on anything “green” as foreign, and therefore best to be avoided, like the Wicked Witch of the West… However, I find that most green actions, particularly the simplest and therefore cheapest (such as avoiding a car to enjoy life as a pedestrian, taking public transit, consuming less), fit with an ethic involving “voluntary simplicity” and are absolutely compatible with the Christian life and the hard core teachings of Jesus. There’s no question about it. Such actions can be undertaken for a variety of reasons, and they synch in well with a reflective, faith-infused, fulfilling, and joyous lifestyle. These matters boil down to much more than dollars and cents. Hence, the question doesn’t even apply in the final analysis, but here it is. How many years will it take me to save enough money in gas and car expenses by eschewing the car for simple trips to offset the major medical expenses I experienced after breaking an ankle while jogging the half mile to the pharmacy to pick up medicine for a family member a couple years ago? By choosing a conservative figure of $3.50 in savings each week, on average, it’ll take a demoralizing 44 years for me to save enough to cover the $8000 in medical bills incurred on one invisible icy patch. Man that stinks! Of course, if I had been walking rather than jogging at the time the accident never would have happened. Thus, my own admonishment to not be in such a hurry certainly applies. Also, it’s helpful to be aware that approximately one in three car accidents occur within a mile of home, and 52% occur within five miles (per a survey done by the insurer, Progressive). Thankfully, the main reasons for doing so aren’t economic in the traditional sense. Staying in better shape while approaching middle age is worth it in and of itself, and that says nothing about being more acquainted with the nooks and crannies of my immediate neighborhood rather than large parking lots in shopping centers devoid of character or life. If I could do it over again, would I have driven the half mile on that particular day? Yes, absolutely. However, accidents can happen any time, and over years as we develop greater wisdom they become less likely. I believe that avoiding the hermetically sealed car in most occasions can result in more rewarding life experiences, positive human connections, a higher level of physical fitness, a greater capacity for observation rather than rushing through life, and therefore more wisdom over time and ultimately a happier and more joy-filled life. For me, these little half mile trips especially rule out the automobile. The thought of driving doesn’t even cross my mind. Eventually your mind and body adapt, and you’re ultimately better for it. Even when the local hardware store is closing in five minutes, I’m able to hop on the bike and get their nearly as fast as by car. Perhaps more importantly, I return home with only the $8 item I needed rather than $150 in extra stuff because it feels like you need more when going to those big box stores. The greatest satisfaction, and one that simmers below the surface and I genuinely don’t wish to convey any self-righteousness here, is a knowledge that our car is not an absolute necessity. Cheers and God speed!