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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

A Matter of Perspective: The Parable of the Pothole

By Carl A. Trapani, MA, MS, LPC, Chippewa Manor Campus Chaplain

There once was man who had a pothole in front of his house. It was left over from some work done on the gas lines done a few years earlier; right in the middle of the road. It started out small, but it quickly grew larger because it was hard to see until you were right on top of it. It seemed to the man that every car that went by his house hit it, and the noise shook the man’s house and bothered him. The man was so bothered by the pothole that he called the city to request they repair it. They said they had a lot of other potholes and roadwork to do, but they would fix it as soon as they could. 

Time passed, and the pothole remained unfixed. This upset the man. He called the city again and pleaded for a remedy, but was again told they were very busy fixing other roads all over the city and would repair it just as soon as they could.  

A few weeks later, he was driving home from work and noticed road-repair crews working on the street next to his.  He stopped his car, got out, and asked the road-repair foreman if he would please come to the spot in front of his house and fix the hole. He was told, “If we have any material left from fixing all the holes on this street, we will come over and fix yours.”  The man went home and waited hopefully on his front porch for the truck and workers to arrive.  

Some time passed, and then the man saw the truck slowly coming up his street. He watched as it drove past his house. As it went by, the man ran off his porch to flag it down. Like so many other drivers, the repair crew had completely missed seeing the pothole and had passed right over it!  The flustered man ran out to the pothole, stood beside it, and hollered pleadingly to the workers, waving his arms, "Hey, you missed it! You missed it! It’s right here." The workers politely acknowledged him, and then backed up and repaired the hole in the road in front of his house.  Almost the end of this story. . . 

Well, you might say, "OK, what’s the point?"  Here it is: The pavement in front of this man’s house was in really good condition except for that one spot; that one worrisome blemish that constantly consumed this man’s thoughts. Ninety-nine percent of the street in front of his house was perfectly fine! It was just that 1% that got his attention and rattled his nerves. He was focused on one small fault. He was looking at the molehill-sized pot-hole problem, not seeing the mountains of blessings in the miles of good roads all around him. This is a lesson for us all to learn.  Don’t dwell on negative things – look at all the positive things instead.  

In light of the little parable above, Wisconsin’s potholes are nothing compared to Florida’s 27,000 sinkholes.  Potholes can damage your car, but sinkholes can swallow you alive!  Some sinkholes have swallowed houses, yards, roads, and even entire neighborhoods. 

There’s a Bible verse that can help you know what to focus on. Philippians 4:8 (MSG) “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.“ 

The non-Christian Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, shared this wisdom. “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”  He believed that happiness comes from within if we cultivate a positive and grateful mindset, and that our own thoughts and attitudes are more important than our external circumstances. 

If you consider the thousands of miles of good pavement we have in Wisconsin compared to a few temporary potholes, our roads are wonderful. Focus on all the good things around you. Then be glad you don’t live in Florida with its sinkholes and only have to contend with Wisconsin’s winter potholes!  

Carl Trapani, MA, MS, LPC serves as campus Chaplain at Chippewa Manor. For more information please call (715) 723-4437 or email him at

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