Have you ever been stuck at a stand-still on the freeway?
How did you react?
Were you alone and booming the radio, muscles tense for action when nothing is happening? Did you have a car full of sweaty impatient people tapping your shoulder telling you to go when you have no way to obey their orders? Did you have a bunch of whiny thirsty kids repeating the sing-song "Are we there yet?" at the top of their lungs?
Well, let me tell you a story.
We took a long trip recently up through Idaho, Oregon, back through Idaho to Montana, and then back to Utah. It was a long trip and we had three small children the entire time. Guess what happened? We got stuck in traffic in the middle of the desert in southwestern Idaho. Nowhere to go. We sat there wondering what to do and then something happened.
People got out of their cars. They were conversing around us, having a good ol' time, being friendly and making the best of the situation. One of them was a trucker and probably found out through his radio what the hold-up was. The man from the car in front of us came to our window and told us there had been a chemical spill up ahead and the wait would probably be a couple of hours.
What would you do?
He informed us that he knew a back road off the last exit we passed and was going to go back to it and we were welcome to follow him. So we followed him driving along the median against traffic until we could cross over to the opposite side to continue back toward the last exit and then followed him through some small towns to get back to the freeway.
It was so kind of this man. And a positive experience! How often do we have horrible experiences because of traffic? Let me tell you, I can't imagine something like this happening in Utah. Everyone is too bent on where they need to be and how someone else offended them personally because they needed to get into their lane. "How DARE they get right in front of me when I can't go anywhere anyway!"
Come on, people.
Makes me miss the laid back friendly attitude people can have in smaller places. It's why Idaho is that way - most places in Idaho are small. Well, everywhere is small compared to other states. Anyway, it just made me realize how much we freak out about little things. When these little things can actually turn into something fun if we just have a good attitude about them. Try it.
I also was thinking about how this could be a metaphor for all life. Sometimes we want to get somewhere, and get there fast. Sometimes we hit something that gets in our way and then we have a choice. We can just sit there and whine, we can throw a fit, we can stress every muscle in our bodies until we're sore, or we can take a deep breath and look around for something worthwhile. Some things are just beyond our control. Like being stuck in traffic. And when something is beyond your control, there is nothing you can do about it, and pouting never helps anyone. So using these people from my experience as an example: what did they find to do that was worthwhile? They looked around and saw there were other people on the road who were also stuck. Instead of glaring and trying to inch ahead of the next guy (with no real meaning to it anyway) they got out of their cars and took a moment to get to know each other, make friends, and uplift. The man in front of my car even took the time to help us.
So when I'm "stuck in traffic" in my life, instead of getting depressed and self-involved, maybe I should look around at the other people around me and find out that there are opportunities everywhere to help other people. And maybe if I step out of my own world for a moment I will realize how insignificant my problems really are. Maybe I'll step out of my "vehicle" to talk to, uplift, or help another person, and turn around and see that it's just that. A vehicle. Stuck in traffic. For a moment. And that moment is my opportunity. I should take advantage of it.