Learning To Be Kind One Mile At A Time

Commentary By: Dean P. Johnson

Someone once said that kindness is caring for others even when they may not care for you.  This can be no more evident than when driving.

The average commute, according to the US Census Bureau, is 26 minutes long. So, that’s 52 minutes per day — to and from work —  or 260 minutes per week which is 1040 minutes per month. That is just a little over 17 hours per month or 208 hours per year which is just about nine whole days — practically two full business weeks per year on the road, and that’s just your daily commute. If we add all the other running around we do, we spend quite a bit of our time behind the wheel.

So, what are we doing with all this time?

While many people listen to news or talk radio, their favorite music, audio books, podcasts, or take care of early business through hands-free devices, I have discovered this time as an opportunity to practice being kind.

As I was driving along on a recent morning commute, I had been thinking about Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation’s #BeKind21 campaign. This initiative “invites schools and colleges to kick off the new school year by establishing kinder habits, and for corporate partners, nonprofit partners, and all other participants to head into the fall with a spirit of compassion and kindness across their organizations and in their communities,” according to the Born This Way Foundation website.

The idea is that since habits are formed from repeating a behavior for 21 successive days, making an effort to be deliberately kind for 21 days will transform individual acts of kindness into lifelong habits.

As I was contemplating where and how I can put these acts of kindness in motion, a car started drifting over into my lane. Naturally I lay on my horn and uttered an expletive or two while yelling, “Here’s a simple act of kindness that could help make the world a better place:  Stay in your lane!”

Then it came to me, these simple acts of kindness can start right here on the highway — it has the potential to affect so many people, that it has to make at least a little bit of difference in the world!  

As every commuter knows, we can find many chances to practice our vehicular acts of kindness. Take the guy who is turn signal challenged.  Left?  Right?  Straight?  Left signal, right turn? Right signal, no turns for the next 68 miles? Instead of cursing and name-calling, be kind even though that dumbbell — err — commuting comrade will never know.

How about the cars that make sudden moves in front of you in an attempt to merge into a space that couldn’t fit a tricycle — instead of speeding up to heroically defend that little piece of pavement, be kind by easing off the gas, and give them a happy little wave in.

Or the gapers, you know, the ones who crane their neck staring with mouth agape at a disabled car, slowing traffic? Why not simply appreciate their inquisitive nature?

Same goes for that idiot — err — fellow traveler flying past as many cars as possible until the merging lane ends forcing traffic to a halt just to let in a car that is now riding on the shoulder of the road instead of merging when there was space available. Here, again, is an opportunity to practice kindness. 

We can even practice being kind to federal, state, and local municipalities for the potholes, frost heaves, and fissures of their roads. Well, that may be taking it a bit too far. Baby steps.

The #BeKind21 campaign began on September 1 and will culminate with the U.N. International Day of Peace on September 21.

Kindness is never wasted, and it is those small acts we can all do to make another’s day just a little bit better.  

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