The gift of summer traffic

Driving to the office today, I got stuck in a traffic jam on 28. This is a fairly typical occurrence in the summer here. You learn to live with it, or stay home. The slowdown often begins around St. Anthony’s, continues past the pond, then up the rise past Dunkin Donuts to the new big traffic light at Davisville and Old Meeting House Roads. After that, it’s usually smooth sailing into Mashpee. Today was unusual for the persistence of the jam. And I was unusually patient…perhaps because I’ve been meditating the last few days and listening to podcasts of Tara Brach.

The jam did start somewhere around Dunkies, where I found myself more than willing to pause and allow cars in and out of the portals to and from the drive-thru. Did I imagine the relief on drivers’ faces when they saw a car stop to let them pass? Did I imagine the throb of pleasure I felt in having the spaciousness to offer generosity? Offering kindness rather than gripping the steering wheel, hellbent on getting where I was going, a bittersweet pulse rippled through me.

Beyond the traffic light, down in the dip just past Rocky’s Gym, beside the cranberry bog, I noticed a dirt road I’d never seen before. A few feet further, stopped again, I had moments to look right and discover a river opening out toward the Sound, green marsh grass growing in soft curves banking the water.

Up by the entrance to Green Pond Fish Market, I let more cars in and out, met their waves of thanks with my own. I felt that throb once more, a wild throb of sadness for all the times of rushing and rigidity, a quiet throb of gratitude for this moment of grace, in which generosity came easily. Stuck by some unknown cause further down the road (an accident? road work?), anything but patience would have been absurd.

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately. How it can feel so small and worthless in this current political and social moment. How easy it is for doubt and fear to trump kindness. Whether kindness actually does anything, has any life past its initial moment between two beings.

I can’t measure the impact of those waves, can’t research the energy exchange between two humans in their cars on a summer Tuesday morning and determine whether giving way to another person made a difference in their day. I can, though, feel the gorgeous opening of my spirit, the slightly fearful but also sweet wash of energy when I fulfill what my best self always longs to do. I can hope that, as when kindness is sent my way, the recipient feels a moment of lightening, a sense that all is not lost, a renewed capacity to believe that we human animals can still act beyond our own interests.




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