Driving to and from work is always a kindness challenge for me.

Keeping from swearing or yelling or name-calling at some of the other drivers could be very difficult; all the more difficult, could be showing kindness to them. My work day’s attitude is not improved by getting wound up about what other people are doing behind their wheels, so I attempt to not think deeply about the other drivers, their cars, and what else they are doing. I try to harbor peaceful thoughts while driving. I try.

However, some drivers definitely get to me when I let them; for example, those people who put on the gas when they see my signal to merge into their lane—into a lane that seconds earlier had plenty of room for me to shift into—or those drivers who are driving erratically, too fast, or too slowly and then when I am next to them at a light, I see that they are texting or otherwise occupied with their phone. ARG!!!!

We can’t do anything at all about how other people drive and what other people do, besides avoiding them and not letting them raise our blood pressure or ruin our day. (Of course, I guess, I should add “not initiating a road rage incident with them”—although some people don’t rule that out, unfortunately.)

We can’t do anything about other people’s behavior, but we can do something about our own behavior on that list of irritating things that people do: Do I do any of them myself? Do I do things that other people would be irritated by or that would ruin their day? Do I do anything in my driving that would help someone’s day?

In fact, I can try to be gracious to the other drivers, for example, by not rushing up to fill a space, but rather, by my letting another person go ahead of me or by my choosing to merge after the car has moved ahead. Just this evening on the way home, I needed to merge one lane to the right so that I could exit a bridge, but the car in that lane, which started out several car lengths back, sped up to “fill the spot” where I needed to move. I let that person go ahead so that I could merge right, and then I noticed that same car up ahead with his left-turn signal on, ready to move into the spot that I was going to vacate. Why did the person think they needed to speed by me to move into a spot in my lane? Wouldn’t it be safer and kinder to let me make my move (my turn signal was blinking, after all) into the lane and then turn into the lane behind me?

People are impatient and selfish; they are obsessive and think they need to always “win.” People rarely pay attention to the needs of those around them. However, I can be patient and gracious and share or defer. Trying to show kindness to other drivers in situations like these makes my day less stressful because it makes me take a breath and think of the big picture of what is going on around me, to think of other people and what is good for everyone, not just my own selfish ambition to win something or get ahead by two seconds.

And maybe, trying a little kindness in traffic might make someone else’s day a little better—and safer, too.

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