The Great Leveler

My partner Barbara and I spent three hours in a Minnesota License Bureau reception room waiting our turn to make an address change on our driver’s licenses.  Someone once said, “The driver’s license bureau is the great leveler in our society.”

We saw people from all the colors of the rainbow.  Where did I ever see that in Minnesota?  Other than the local food shelf where I help out once a week, I don’t see rainbow people at the stores I shop in, or the concerts and plays I go to.

There were babies and kids – quiet, crying, shouting and running around followed by scrambling parents.  There were teenagers, singles, young couples, middle aged, elderly, grandparents, and single people.  A tossed salad had jumped out of the bowl and came to life.  All of a sudden, this drab and dull experience was turning into to an unintended civics lesson.

Everyone had to take a ticket with a number on it.  You wait your turn.  Privilege did not count.   Professions did not count.  The cars we drive, the houses we live in, the money in our wallets did not count.   How insanely democratic can one get?  In three hours we were stripped down to our basic humanity.  We were all equal and valued in God’s eyes.  All of us wanted a piece of paper with our picture on it saying it was OK to drive a vehicle in Minnesota.    

To pass time, I talked with a person sitting next to me about how this intolerable waiting can be used more creatively.  We thought of organizing games for all ages of people like musical chairs, hide and seek, and charades.  We thought of pairing people into small groups to talk about our lives.

Then I worried the computers would crash when our numbers were called.  Do you mean I have to go through this infernal waiting exercise again?  YES.  We thought of the state of Minnesota hiring a hypnotist to place us in a more relaxed state of mind.

Then I got into the crazy mindset that I was more deserving than other people.  I was the one who should go first to stop this infernal waiting for my number to be called.  I looked into the faces of strangers and suddenly I saw them as new neighbors. 

Why on earth did I think I was better than other people?  All the people in the waiting room were just like me holding love and hate, compassion and fear, struggles and hopes in their lives. God was teaching me about my neighbors.  It was the last place I expected to be taught - in the MN Driver’s License Bureau.  I didn’t have to go to church to learn who my neighbors are.


-Dan Schmiechen   

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