Passing Through: Reflections on Life, by Joe Black

Review by Martha Quillen

Inspiration – October 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Passing Through: Reflections On Life
by Joe Black
Life Vision Books, 800-348-9953

Passing Through is a book of Christian inspiration by Joe Black, the founder of a successful consulting firm who now lives in Buena Vista. Black’s book offers basic, common-sense advice that most of us have heard before — but tend to forget. Chapter titles like Never Quit Learning, Be Good To your Parents, Cherish Your Friends, Savor Each Day, Help Others, and Love More reveal the tenor of Black’s recommendations.

The author’s reflections on life are presented in a pleasantly warm tone with a touch of humor here and there, and are accompanied by befitting poems and applicable quotes. Black starts his book with a story of his youth:

“As a boy of twelve, I rode a red bicycle with a genuine police siren attached to the front wheel…

“I’d sit behind the shrubbery at the intersection and wait for speeding motorists. Then I’d pull out, chase them, engage my siren and scream, `slow down and live!’ (The slogan of the S.C. Highway Patrol at the time.) Hearing the siren, several drivers actually pulled over in a panic only to be lectured on the dangers of speeding by a twelve-year-old!”

“After a few days of playing Highway Patrol, I was visited by our local police chief. He explained I couldn’t play my favorite game anymore. He also confiscated my siren!

“Today the words `Slow down and live’ have a profound new meaning for me…”

Black encourages readers to appreciate life, to worry less, whine less, and read more. Although he extols traditional Christian virtues like love, faith, forgiveness, and church attendance, Black makes no attempt to tell his readers where or how to worship.

In these days of the aftermath of Mother Teresa’s funeral, Passing Through reminds readers that they don’t have to give all their worldly goods away and move to India to live more spiritual lives. Black’s book even includes a quote to that effect: A woman asked Mother Teresa “What can I do for world peace?” She replied, “Go home and love your family.”

On the whole, Black’s recommendations suggest clear, rational ways to add spirituality to everyday life. But the author is opinionated, and readers will undoubtedly come across a point or two they disagree with. All in all, however my only criticism of Black’s advice is that at times it seemed a little too simplistic.

Black’s advice for getting along with parents, for example, was to follow your own dreams so you won’t be resentful, but also to love, respect, and visit your parents often, and not to argue with them when you go home for holidays. “The differences you have with them don’t really matter–you’re there only a few hours or days,” Black concludes.

Yet when I reflected upon some of the arguments various acquaintances of mine have had with their parents, the differences absolutely mattered.

Some things are worth arguing about — even if it does ruin the holidays. (Case in point, an elderly gentleman who kept driving after he was totally blind, with his wife telling him where to steer, stop and turn. Obviously, that couple was going to end up institutionalized if they didn’t cease and desist.)

I enjoyed Black’s good-humored, good-natured advice, though, and merely hoped that in his next book he’d delve a bit more into some of those stickier situations in life — when right and wrong are not clear and it takes a heap of prayer to figure out what to do.

Proceeds from copies of Black’s book will be donated to charity.

–Martha Quillen