Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lessons from the Volkswagen Beetle

My folks purchased a VW Beetle while I was still high school back in the late 60s and early 70s. They were making daily round trip commute of 80 miles to and from work at the time and needed something that gave good gas mileage. Sounds a bit like what folks are talking about today. It was painted orange (a good color for a UT grad like myself) and the factory name for the color was Clementine Orange, hence the name Clementine stuck for the little car. Along about my sophomore year at UT, I inherited Clementine and drove it for a couple of more years. It was a delight to park as it was small and fit in to some pretty tight spots. I don't remember exactly why Clementine left the family, but she eventually did.

Five years ago today on July 30, 2003, the last “classic” Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line at the production plant in Puebla, Mexico. It was shipped to a museum in Wolfsburg, Germany where the Volkswagen headquarters is located. The car that inspired Disney’s Herbie the Love Bug series was actually originally the result of an initiative by Adolf Hitler to make an affordable, efficient “people’s car.” The Beetle was popular in the 60s and early 70s in the U.S. until it was banned in 1977 for failing to meet safety and emissions standards. Until 2003, it continued to be produced in Mexico where one can still see to this day thousands of green Beetles being used as city taxis.

The Beetle finally found itself unable to compete with other inexpensive compact cars. Its failure to adapt to change marked its demise. One of the challenges we all face is adapting to change. You may have heard the refrain, “The only constant is change.” Change is unsettling and uncomfortable, but it’s a given in this world. I think that as we age, we tend to long more and with greater nostalgia for the good old days. We probably remember those days as better than they actually were, but in our memory they represent better times, less marked by rapid upheaval.

Reacting positively to change is difficult, but if we’ll make the effort to do so, it will help us to stay young at heart—-no matter what our biological age might be. The new redesigned Beetle that Volkswagen introduced in 1998 has done fairly well in sales, a testament to the virtue of adapting to change. One thing that will help us to cope with change is to remember that the Lord who promises to never leave us nor forsake us is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

(I shared the gist of this post in our monthly senior adult newsletter).

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