I know, I know – it seems a huge stretch, not in the least as Saint Patrick is almost more myth than man from where we stand today, and not in the least because he lived during that almost post-apocalyptic time right after the fall of the Roman Empire, when civilization, law and order, even the ability to read and write seemed ready to disappear from that part of the world we now call Europe.
Yet I discuss Saint Patrick in this space not for reasons of faith (though I am Catholic) and not because of his legendary mission to Ireland (though I’m Irish-American). It’s because Saint Patrick – like truck drivers – had to fight his many battles by himself. Alone.
[Below is a glimpse of what it’s like trucking in Ireland. This four minute clip from several years ago records a haul through the town of Belturbet in County Cavan in what’s known as the “border region” between the Republic of Ireland to the south and the province of Ulster to the north – more commonly referred to as “Northern Ireland.” The narrow roads, tight turns, and rapid shifts from urban to rural driving environments is a ubiquitous feature of the trucking life in the Emerald Isle.]
Saint Patrick usually never had the luxury to turn to a friend or companion and say, “What should I do now? What do you think?” He had to make the many decisions he made – to escape slavery, to become a missionary, to face down the numerous tribal chiefs in Ireland that wanted him dead – on his own.
Similar strength of self is critical to truck driving as well, though most still regard the profession with thinly disguised disdain (a disdain Saint Patrick surely suffered through as well).
No matter how much technology gets crammed into today’s tractor-trailer, drivers must still check their vehicle out from stem to stern before and after their trips, must make thousands of decisions whilst on the asphalt to ensure the safety of their load and fellow motorists, and must do it all with rarely a word of praise.
That’s also true of drivers that face and overcome far more personal struggles, like Schneider National’s Jeff Edwards, to provide the wheels keeping our nation’s economy rolling.
Then there are those drivers who put their own lives at risk to save others on the highway, like the ones honored by the Goodyear Highway Hero program. While others watched from the sidelines as highway tragedies developed, they acted.
All of that requires an inner strength of character and purpose Saint Patrick surely drew upon to complete his mission. Here’s a man – a Roman no less – abducted by Irish slave raiders from what’s known as England today at age 16. He eventually escaped – death a close companion all the way – and returned home, eventually deciding to take holy orders.
One can imagine his lack of education (one doesn’t go to school as a slave) made him the butt of more than a few jokes as he struggled to succeed in his lessons. How the scions of what remained of Rome’s cultured and civilized class must have looked down their noses at the crude bumpkin ex-slave in their midst.
Yet he persevered and decided to return to Ireland – the land of those who’d enslaved him – as a missionary, no doubt to the consternation and utter shock of those around him.
But Saint Patrick I am sure felt more than a little self-confidence, after surviving and overcoming so much, to follow his chosen path – a path, though fraught with danger and the possibility of a painful death, that eventually made him a legend in his own time and beyond.
Mayhap that will also one day be said for more than a few of the drivers in this industry as well.