I think I just entered into an alternate reality. Did I just step into a Norman Rockwell painting? Did I just cross some barrier into a sweet southern town filled with delightfully loving people unsullied by our current hysteria and crises? Why do I ask these questions? I just experienced unexpected kindness, and I’m actually ashamed that it is so shocking.
Unexpected Kindness – On the Roads
Here’s what happened. I asked the GPS to take me on a route that would avoid Atlanta traffic. I’m on my way to my art class and wanted to relax rather than be tense on the trip in. So the GPS took me down Jot-em-down Road. And while on this journey I’m jotting down a post (hehehe).
Before I get into this, I first need to make a confession. I initially responded like a big city traveler rather than if I was in a delightful small town. Unfortunately, when I was given the opportunity to show my own unexpected kindness, I failed. I’m not saying at every opportunity, but at least once, which shamed me.
Unexpected Kindness in Traffic Congestion
Here is the scenario. When you’re merging onto the Dahlonega Highway from Hopewell Road, the traffic from Hopewell has a stop sign and has to merge into the highway. At this juncture there is no street sign or light for the traffic traveling on the highway. For most, especially during rush hour traffic, this would communicate, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” It is just natural for busy people, not to mention when they’re listening to the doom and gloom on the radio from the talking heads.
Anyway, both thoroughfares are extremely congested. When I say extremely, I mean bumper-to-bumper crawling traffic. But what I witnessed was unexpected kindness. Those driving on the highway bent over backwards to make the merge from Hopewell Road effortless. And I’m not talking about just one Good Samaritan; I’m talking about the majority of those traveling on this route. This intersection literally wouldn’t work outside of unexpected kindness. This both shamed and encouraged me.
My normal commute is kind of white-knuckling. It’s Atlanta’s nightmarish morning traffic. The frustration is palpable. People are ill and angry. It’s like everyone’s frustration, aggression, aggravation, and rage pours out onto the roads themselves. Maybe it’s just a safe place to release all that penned up emotional pressure. Sure, safe is a relative term here when you’re driving a several thousand pound steel torpedo able to maim and kill at any point. But the anonymity of being behind the steering wheel, where people don’t have direct contact with you, feels safe.
Unexpected Kindness – On the Road
Anyway back to the delight. The majority of highway travelers gave way to the merging traffic, even when that merge would further delay their own trip. Can you imagine that actually happening on some of our big city roads? You’re lucky if you don’t get the finger or an angry fist waved at you when you do it in the correct fashion. But here on this road, I witnessed unexpected kindness. The funny thing is it didn’t just relegate itself to this one intersection; it spilled over along the entire route. Where I missed it was by not showing the same cordiality a few miles down from that intersection. But after being convicted, I didn’t miss it again.
This scenario wowed me. Not that I believe there is inherent goodness residing in man. But this proved to me that all of America hasn’t succumbed to the current warfare on our souls to make us hate. The typical response is “every man for himself” – politically, financially, emotionally, circumstantially, and otherwise. One of the casualties of our current State of the Union is community and decency. And what’s been absent in my view is unexpected kindness.
Somehow when kindness and courtesy wanes, so does hope. When every face you encounter is aggravation and impatience, you feel less than human. It is soul sucking to meet nothing but anger. It hits and hurts both our spirits and our souls. It tempts us to be cynical and self-serving. But here in this small intersection (meaningless to anyone but those in it), I witness something beautiful. And in it, God challenged me to not let the world diminish my light.
Unexpected Kindness vs. Expected Rudeness
It is not worth my soul’s health to be rude, aggressive, and obnoxious. This country route delayed my trip by probably 30 minutes, but what I gained in that delay was invaluable. Though there is a better, faster route to my destination, I wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world.
When the drum beat of the media’s reporting of crises becomes inescapable and when turning off the sources fails to work because friends, family and neighbors repeat the mantra, BE unexpected kindness in your world. Let His Light and Life shine in the dim. His Life is our only hope of glory or goodness!
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:12-13 NIV