66. Soul Marks

66. Soul Marks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Soul Marks

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you—not because they are nice, but because you are.

~Author Unknown

I was heading home after a long day at work and feeling tired and frazzled. I kept thinking about the e-mails I had forgotten to send and the many appointments I had scheduled for the following day.

I was nearing home and navigating a familiar stretch of road with the late day sun glaring off the wet road. I snapped off the radio as the noise was just increasing my tension. All I wanted was to be at home; a warm mug of tea and my cozy couch were just what I needed to put the stressful day behind me. Having to drive those last few blocks felt suddenly, and overwhelmingly, unbearable.

As I approached an intersection, I pulled into the left-turn lane. A small blue sedan pulled ahead of me in the middle lane and then tried to cut in front of me in the turning lane.

With my aggression already high, I determined that I would not let that driver in. I practically kissed the bumper of the SUV ahead of me and stared stoically ahead, refusing to make eye contact. A silly game I had played a thousand times before. The driver continued to try to nudge in but I wouldn’t let her. Instead she accelerated forward and merged in two cars ahead of me.

I felt a moment of fury—she had won! It lasted only a moment and then my anger abruptly dissipated. I imagined that perhaps she was a tourist who didn’t know that her left turn was coming up so fast. Or maybe she was distracted by her busy day and found herself stranded in the intersection. Or maybe she was late to meet her mother. Any of a million scenarios suddenly flashed through my mind, along with a measure of shame. I had gained nothing through my traffic aggression. The moment would be gone and forgotten quickly, so why make another human suffer, even for a moment, just because I had a bad day? Was that really the energy I wanted to put out in the world?

As I rounded the corner, I moved into the left lane for yet another upcoming turn and saw the little blue sedan inching along in the right lane against a backdrop of office buildings. Traffic in both lanes moved slowly. I took a deep breath before I passed the car and looked directly at her as I drove. Expecting a look of annoyance and anger from her, I softened my heart, smiled and mouthed the words “I’m sorry.”

Her response stuck with me. I expected her to express her distaste and frustration but as she took in my remote apology, her face registered surprise. She looked back at me and I saw her start to laugh, as she too recognized the absurdity of the situation and the emotion we attached to it. She waved and I waved back as I continued on my way.

I am grateful I had that awakening. It was a moment of unpleasantness and negativity that would have passed quickly but left just a little mark on my psyche. The type of mark that compounds over time. Instead, I ended up feeling connected and positive in a way that has carried forward. I think of that moment whenever I feel frustrated about commuter life. It inspires me to foster a forgiving approach so that it is kindness and compassion that mark my soul, not anger and ill will.

~Crystal Johnson

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