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Aaron Johnson: A smudge pot on the highway of life

Long before flashing amber lights flashed to warn drivers of road hazards, we had smudge pots. They had various brand names such as Flambo, but the common name was just a smudge pot.

It was a common name for the least noble of all traffic engineering equipment. The smudge pot stands about 8 inches tall, round on the top with a broad flat bottom that was the same diameter as the height. The new ones were black. The old ones were black. They were all black.

They looked like bowling balls half buried in the ground. On top was a small dome with ports on each side. This was the business end of the little sentinel. Perched atop each deployed smudge pot was an orange flame.

You read that correctly and, no, I am not fabricating a story.

The smudge pots were actually set ablaze and placed on the roadside to warn drivers of hazards. They just sat and burned. When needed, they were filled with kerosene and set afire again only to be left alone in the dark with only a torch to warn drivers.

Sometimes you would see dozens all burning in the dark. Other times you might find only one. No matter how many were deployed, they just burned.

In the rain, they burned. In the snow and cold, they burned. In the dark and in the day, they burned. They didn’t blink, rotate, or flash.

They had no directional arrows. They just burned.

It was primitive; but it worked. I wonder how many people are alive today just because a lowly smudge pot just sat on a dark roadside and burned. The smudge pot never received a prize or commendation. They never asked for any recognition.

When their task was complete, they were chained together and tossed without care into the open bed of a truck to await their next deployment. They just did what they were made to do.

With great passion, I believe we are all gifted to do great things. Mark Twain is reported to have said, “The two greatest days in a man’s life is the day he is born and the day he discovers why.”

Sometimes we do great things in the dark with no recognition. That is OK. When we discover our purpose, and we are actively engaged in pursuing that purpose, we find a satisfaction that applause can never duplicate.

We give much attention to actors, politicians, and talking heads on TV. They have glamorous roles and always have the spot lights shining on them. However, I doubt any have saved as many lives as the common smudge pot.

Chances are you owe your very existence, in some distant way, to a little burning black pot on a roadside. Few of us owe the same to an actor.

In a world determined to make you unhappy with who you are; find a way to be who you were created to be. Be who and what God created you to be and become. And there you will find a noble purpose for your life. There you will find a joy that no fame can replace.

I am proud to be a smudge pot.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News

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