Using the Sidetracks

A look at the railroad philosophy

LOUIS B. REYNOLDS Associate Secretary, Sabbath School Department General Conference

I have a profound respect for the man  in the signal tower. He stands at a focal point. He is a manager. His eye on the track, and his hand on the lever, and his mind ever fixed on his task, he directs the traffic of a nation, and guides innumerable lives to their appointed destination. He throws over a steel arm, and far off along the shining parallels a signal falls—the switch of the siding is open. Along comes an accommodation train, and slips into its appointed stall. Another pull on the lever, and the signal flies horizontal. The accom­modation train is locked safely in. The main track is unimpeded. Off in the dis­tance there is a rapidly lengthening line of smoke. It becomes a rumble, then a roar, then the express thunders by. The engineer, for all his sharp lookout, is not worrying. He has the Diesel going full blast. He is racing the wind. He knows that the accommodation train is on the siding, and the way is clear. He has confi­dence in timetables, and the block system, and the man in the tower. Now the switch can be opened by another turn of the wrist. Now the accommodation train can creep out of its stall and go ploddingly on its way, sure that when it is time for another express train there will be another signal tower, and another prompt hand on the lever, and another siding. Thus the business of the world gets done.

But not all of it—no, alas! not all.

For there are workers not a few who know nothing about sidings and switches. Their tasks move one at a time along a single track. Every job must go through to the terminus, and telegraph its safe arrival before another job is started. That is be­ing thorough. And all jobs must go the same number of miles an hour. That is being methodical.

My brethren, the railroad philosophy is this: Not everything is of equal impor­tance. It is sometimes well to put things off. And if a man is to follow through with the most important matters, he can only do it by shifting to one side, temporarily, the matters of less importance. The best workers have a stern sense of proportion. Some tasks run express; others are accom­modation tasks, and they grow acquainted with the sidetracks.

To the siding with the avocation, leav­ing the main track for the vocation. The siding for leisure and recreation, the main rack for those things that leisure and recreation are healthfully to promote. The siding for temporal things, the main track 'or eternal things. The siding for those hings relating to self, the main track for lelpfulness to others. The siding for the lewspaper, the main track for the Bible. The siding for self-appointed tasks, the nain track for what you have agreed to do. The siding for indeterminate work, the nain track for the duty of the day.

And don't worry about your sidings, hough every one of them is full of cars, ind every car is full of passengers or freight. Learn to bear them all quietly in nind. Learn to come serenely back to hem. Understand how many sidings you lave, and don't start more accommodation rains than they will accommodate. And ver hold up before you as a model that VIan in the "signal tower," with His alert ye and His hand on the lever, and His ,ense of the supremacy of expresses.

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LOUIS B. REYNOLDS Associate Secretary, Sabbath School Department General Conference

August 1968

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