I was driving to get my son the other day and heard a car honk behind me. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw an old, beat-p truck stopped with the driver yelling to another woman in the SUV next to her. The woman in the SUV was looking straight ahead and had her window rolled up but her anxiety was visible. Her lips were pursed, eyebrows raised, and everything was stiff. I couldn’t hear what the angry woman was saying but her vitriol was a wave of energy that most likely made its way into every adjacent car. I don’t know what caused the woman to get so angry, but this exchange had a ripple effect on at least three people: the angry woman, the woman in the SUV, and me.
The angry women ended up pulling up next me, window still rolled down, and looking into my car. I froze for a moment, wondering if I was next on her anger list. My dog was in the car next to me, watching her. She was looking at him, emotionless. Our eyes met, my heart sped up a bit, and I knew I had a split second to make a decision–I could simply look away, I could roll my window down and tell her how gross I thought it was that she lashed out at a stranger so harshly, or I could smile.
I smiled, the biggest most genuine smile I could.
I chose in that moment to spread kindness. I actually took a second to send her a wish that she would be able to let go of her anger for the day. She looked a little shocked that I was smiling and it took her a second, but she smiled back. Then she looked at my dog again and smiled again (he is pretty adorable).
I wished I could have turned my car around to the woman in the SUV and do the same. When she passed me, I saw she was frowning, head down a little, trying hard to avoid the angry woman in the truck. I thought about how this might impact the rest of her day, how she might already be dealing with some hard thing in life and this would make her feel worse. Or, maybe she had been having a terrific morning, feeling on top of the world because she got the kids to school in time and was having a good hair day, and now the anger of a stranger would dampen that.
I wish we would all make a conscious effort to CHOOSE kindness, even when it is hard. Even when we’re sad, angry, or just plain don’t agree with someone else–kindness. These don’t need to be huge acts, either. A smile, a sincere “thank you,” a hug, “I love you,” anything that takes a negative and turns it into a positive. Can we try to be gentler with our fellow humans? We’re all fighting the same battle to thrive, the same desire to succeed, and to be happy. Tearing each other down and spreading anger and hate hurts more than just the person you’re angry with. It has a ripple effect, the energy spreading wide and fast.
I choose kindness and I hope you do too.
It’s awe-inspiring what a smile can do.