Most of us have a commute to work; some longer and more challenging than others. How we drive to work can say a lot about our view of the world, our fellow citizens, and even our coworkers.
It might even have a big impact on the day we – and those around us – might experience.
On the one hand, you turn on your blinker to change lanes and people speed up to block your way. People get distracted while waiting for the light and delay advancing while long lines of cars are backed up behind them. People pull out in front of you, even though there is no one behind you, forcing you to slow down and follow their lead. They’re competitive. Aggressive. Impatient.
It’s frustrating and maddening.
On the other hand, people let you in and slow down to accommodate you. People switch lanes to get out of the way for someone who is clearly in a hurry. Wave at you when you let them in. They don’t ride on your back bumper and stay a respectful distance behind. They’re cooperative. Considerate. Patient.
It’s surprising and uplifting.
One of my favorite commentators, David Brooks, had something to say about this in a recent opinion article about driving habits and what it means for our culture. It’s worth reading.
David Brooks noted, “The people who have the most influence on society are actually normal folks, through the normal, everyday gestures: being kind in public places, attentive to the elderly.”
As Brooks goes on to note, driving is precisely the sort of everyday activity through which people mold the everyday culture.
We obsess a lot about the bad and disappointing behavior of leaders, celebrities, and sports heroes. But in the long haul, it’s ordinary people like us that have the most influence.
And, we could choose to have an impact over the next 20 days just with our driving. Here’s some things to keep in mind.
ARTISANS OF THE COMMON GOOD
It was Pope Francis’ New Year’s Eve homily that got Brooks’ attention. Pope Francis called these normal people “artisans of the common good.” Hey, that’s you and me…well, if we choose to be.
The pope used driving to make his point. He praised people “who move in traffic with good sense and prudence.” Seems like a little thing. But it can be everything. Not just for us, but for all those on the road with us.
It’s something we do every day. In good conditions and bad conditions. In good moods and bad moods. And, we’re almost never alone on the road. We’re always interacting with a real cross section of society.
“Therefore, God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12
CULTURE IS ABOUT THE HOW
Like everything else building culture isn’t about what we do (that we drive); it’s about how we do it. And, how we do it, affects us first and those around us second. We all have to live in the world we’re making for ourselves. Not the least to drive in it.
Culture has to do with people and how we treat one another. How we drive is just one illustration that tells us a lot.
I was this aggressive driver. I was always off to the races, weaving in and out of traffic. I remember my grandmother complaining about the way I drove. But I took pride in it. Then I got married and my wife complained. Guess who got my attention.
The Lord calls us to treat others with dignity and respect. Several years ago, we took defensive driving courses. It was a lot of practical advice about common courtesy and being aware of others’ behavior. We put it into practice and it changed our whole experience of driving. And, how we felt when we get to our destination.
Now I actually enjoy being courteous to others on the road. And, when I fall into old habits, I quickly try to catch myself. I don’t like what aggressive behavior on the road does to me.
Now if someone tries to push me faster by riding my bumper, I simply make way for him and let him move on. Why try to aggravate the situation.
The other day, I turned on my blinker to change lanes and watched in the side mirror as the driver immediately accelerated to block my entry. I thought about speeding up, but than I thought better. I calmly took my foot off the gas, let him pass, and watched as he began weaving in and out of traffic in front of me. I was relaxed. He, maybe, not so much so.
“Live in harmony with one another…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12: 16,18
SOMETHING WE CAN ALL DO
So here’s a simple thought. Something we can all do. What if we each drove to and from work for 20 days with courtesy, kindness, and consideration of others in mind?
Even if crazy, aggressive drivers surround us, we could use our time behind the wheel to be “artisans of the common good.” We wouldn’t add to the stress and anxiety of getting to work. We would actually be agents to defuse it. And, it could even be contagious.
In fact, the way we drove to work should set the tone for how we behaved at work. And, that could have its own ripple effect.
It’s ordinary choices like these that could become extraordinary over time.
It’s the ordinary choices like how we drive that are the very chisels the Holy Spirit uses to sculpt who we are.
So, when we get in the car in the morning and turn the key, let us remember we are “artisans for the common good.” Let’s get on a new road to a new you.
It may be our first contribution of the day to bring forth his kingdom. And, there’s a good chance, it won’t be our last.
In fact, as we head home in the evening, perhaps we’ll smile a little remembering other contributions we made to a better culture. Even though at the time many seemed to be small things.
If nothing else we ourselves will be transformed in the process. Not a bad thing.