Be the Example

traffic-2The morning rush hour commute continues to provide learning opportunities and writing prompts as I navigate busy roads in an older city. Although I’ve seen it many times, I never get tired of watching the downstream impact of being nice in heavy traffic.

On one recent morning, after watching 4 or 5 people accelerate past a long line of cars waiting to turn right onto the main thoroughfare, one car slowed and let a waiting car merge. That set off a chain reaction whereby each car after that waved a car in front of them to allow the turn/merge.

When I got up there and was motioned to join the long line of traffic, I waved my thanks and thought about the big difference it made for those of us coming down that side street to be able to merge. Our commutes were made a little easier, the stress of a late arrival was mitigated for many, and the frustration of being stuck in traffic – all eliminated by 1 simple act.

It took 1 person to slow down and wave a single car in front of them to establish the pattern that allowed the 8 cars in front of me and at least 2 behind me that I observed in the rear-view mirror, to have a better day.

That first driver could not have seen all 11 cars that were impacted by their one thoughtful act, but at least 11 drivers (and who knows how many passengers?) had a better morning due to 1 act of kindness.

How often are we in a position to do 1 nice thing for another person? Not only can we make their day a little brighter but like that first driver, we have no idea how far downstream that single act of thoughtfulness will flow.

On that morning I realized that being the change we want to see is much larger than the impact right in front of us; the energy of our actions ripples out in waves to the people around us who see our actions and pass it on, as well as all of those who observe them and continue passing the energy of our initial kind act forward.

We plant seeds of kindness when we defend someone who is being criticized; when we let a harried mother cut in front of us in the grocery store line; when we are kind to an elderly driver who pulls into the parking spot we were waiting for; or anytime we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and allow compassion to take precedent over our own immediate needs and desires.

Kind acts and patient reactions exert an impact well-beyond the people to which they’re directed. Our positive actions extend outward in every direction touching countless lives and bringing sunshine or a smile to people whose lives will be made a little better by it. And we never know when our single act of compassion will end up turning someone’s day from gray to “yay!”.

When we choose to share the best of ourselves through our words and actions we are not only uplifting the people who receive our kindness; we are setting an example that will inspire the best in others.

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