It occurs to me that a good place to start is from our cars—the place where anonymous unkindness seems most rampant.
I recently read the graduation speech that George Saunders delivered at Syracuse University.
The gist of the speech is that when Saunders peers back at his life, he most wishes he had been kinder. He theorizes that the reasons we’re not kinder is because we forget we are all connected and we forget that we are all impermanent.
He dares us, as we pursue whatever our dreams are, to “err in the direction of kindness.”
But how, exactly, do we go about being kinder?
It occurs to me that a good place to start is from our cars—the place where anonymous unkindness seems most rampant. Below are a few simple, actionable ideas that you can take from your own car:
1. Stoplight Metta.
You know those long traffic lights? Take the extra minute to look around at drivers coming from other directions. You will get a quick glimpse of their faces: angry, laughing, singing, serious. A lovely little slice of humanity. Taking it a step further, send them out a quick blessing,
“May you be well, guy singing Thrift Shop at the top of your lungs. God/Goddess, please watch over that lady—she looks sad and is also driving really fast.”
2. Drive-through Connection.
When hitting the drive-through for coffee, banking or paying a toll, ask the person helping you, “How are you?” Ask genuinely. Look them in the eyes and really listen for their answer. It might be the first time anyone has asked them today.
3. Pay it Forward.
This one is a bit cliché, but recently someone in the car in front of me paid for my latte. Having a stranger gift me a warm, sweet coffee felt like a little crescent of magic in my day. This works at toll booths, drive-through windows, or anywhere you can anonymously gift someone.
4. Catch a Wave.
It’s summer and that means construction zones. Instead of being frustrated that you have to wait for a few minutes until the stop sign turns to slow, take the moment to wave to the flagger standing and clutching the sign; he stands there in all weather on tired legs and she breathes in exhaust and impatience from passing cars. Say, “Thank you.”
5. Be Early.
For me, this is the best antidote to road rage. When you’re getting ready to drive somewhere in your car, leave five or ten minutes earlier than you need to. The extra cushion of time means you can pause to let waiting cars in. You can stop while that octogenarian pedestrian shuffles across the street. You might even be early to where you’re going.
Drive forth, and increase the kindness. You won’t regret it.
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Asst Ed: Stephanie Sefton / Ed: Cat Beekmans