Every Monday, I start my week by driving roughly 45 minutes to work. After work, the same process repeats, another 45 minutes drive before I reach home. This cycle continues throughout the weekdays from Monday to Friday.
I used to dread the journey as it meant I had to wake up early and reach home late. It felt like a waste of time on the road in the car. I often wished my workplace was closer to home or my home could be closer to my workplace. Unfortunately, that wish has not been realised and I still have to travel each day.
Through this mundane one and a half hours to two hours of drive through heavy traffic during rush hours to and fro from work each day, I have learnt many lessons. Among the most impactful lesson learnt is that a little kindness goes a long way, not only for others whom I have shown kindness too but for me.
Me, myself and I
Though I have never thought of myself as being selfish or self-centered, driving has made me rethink this. Although I would not say that I’m entirely selfish, I have realised that I think more about myself than anyone else when I’m driving. It’s often all about me wanting to get home as early as possible, to get off the road as fast as I can.
What tells me this? Have we ever stick as close to a car as we could while still being safe so as not to let any cars cut into our lane? Have we ever caught ourselves unconsciously stepping on the accelerator each time we see someone from another lane signalling to come into our lane? Oops, guilty on both occasions.
Since we’re on the road for so long each day, isn’t it justified for us to keep 'our spot' in the lane? Why should we have to let others come in front of us? That will only make us one car later to reach back home. Plus if there’s a first, there will be a second, and a third… if we’re not careful, we could easily end up ten cars behind.
As ridiculous as the above sounds, I for one cannot deny it’s truth when I’m driving. We all want to go home to see our family as soon as we can and we would like to spend more time off the road than on the road so we can have a rest after a long day at work. A way to ensure that happens is by keeping our spot in our lane.
While this is true, does that few minute difference in our driving duration make that much of an impact in our lives? To be honest, arriving home 5 minutes later probably would be fairly similar to if we had arrived home 5 minutes earlier.
However, us choosing to use that extra 5 minutes on the road to be kind to others can make a difference in someone else’s day and for some even in their lives. I for one have started to look forward to heavy traffic so I can be kind to others on the road because of what I’ve witnessed and experienced while driving.
From the main lane
I remember seeing the car in front of me paused just for a few seconds longer before we slowly inched forward again so that the cars that were waiting in the t-junction could turn out into our lane, the main lane. Lawfully, he did not have to but he was obviously just being kind by doing that.
My first thought was that his actions were totally unnecessary. There was no reason to let more cars in front of us, when he wasn’t required to by law, as that would only slow him and all the cars behind down more.
What happened next helped further strengthen my point. The cars that were let into our lane then also paused for other cars to join the lane. By now I was way behind when I should have moved five cars forward.
While I wasn’t too bothered by it, as a driver on the main lane, it felt so foolish for the car in front of me to have done that. Perhaps he did not expect the snowball effects of that many cars ending up in front of us. Surely if he knew that would happen, he would have not paused for the first car to enter our main lane.
From the t-junction
Further down the lane, I had to pick up my son from his childcare centre. Now it was my turn to be at the end of a t-junction, trying to wait for an opportunity to turn into the main lane.
As usual I waited patiently for traffic to ease up, but somehow there was so much traffic that cars puked up in front of me without an opening. I was not expecting anyone to let me through since they were not obligated to and I did not blame those who did not let me in as they did not have to give way.
After much waiting with heavy traffic continually flowing on the main road, a car decided to slow down and pause for me to go through. He did not have to, nor was I expecting it.
So when that actually happened, especially after such a long tedious wait, I felt a rush of gratitude swamped over me – grateful that someone would do what I had considered as foolish so I could at their expense be on my way home too.
When we experienced what the cars from the t-junction are experiencing, we begin to empathise with them. Looking from another perspective widens our horizon to see the world as others are going through.
The kindness cycle
A little kindness goes a long way. Needless to say, the next opportunity I had, I began to let cars into my lane. When I did that, the smiles and hand gestures or flashing lights of acknowledgement makes my day knowing that my few seconds of pauses had allowed someone else to continue moving.
Another particular incident further opened my eyes. The car I had let in joined the main lane for only a few seconds to then turn out into a next left. I was not even a car back despite letting cars into my lane. We need not needlessly think of how we could be at a disadvantage for being kind to others.
It reminded me of how God never shortchanges us. When we give, people often think that we end up with less; like my initial thoughts of how letting a car into my lane would make me one car behind.
Paul tells us though in Acts chapter 20, verse 35 that 'You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, “You’re far happier giving than getting.”'
Indeed, when I gave of my few seconds freely to others, I begin to experience joy that surpasses moments when I was given those few seconds. Now I even look forward to heavy traffic just so I can show some kindness to those stationary at the t-junctions.
Let us seize whatever ‘heavy traffic main lane' situations we might be in so we can turn these dreaded moments by deliberately exercising our ability to be a blessing to others in their 'stuck t-junction lane'.
Choose to be kind even if it might seem to disadvantage us as ‘we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.’ (Romans chapter 8, verse 28)
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Christchurch with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html