Over the years, as God has worked on my character and taken me through some very painful experiences, I have developed a much more tender heart toward other people, and this now applies to my driving as well. I no longer go out in traffic with the goal of getting from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible and resenting anyone that gets in my way. Instead, I got out in traffic with the desire to be as polite as possible, to help anyone at any opportunity, and to impose on others as little as possible. Of course, this is just an extension of how I live my life in all other areas. I can’t take the credit for any of this, though. All the good in me is because of the work of God in my life, shaping my character, building His Spirit ever stronger in me day-by-day, and filling me with His Love and Wisdom. I know that, even without God’s work in me, so long as I had a fairly decent heart and conscience, then I would have probably mellowed out more with age anyway. The benefit of years of experience taught me that there are few things that are so urgent that I need to drive like a crazy man everywhere I go.
The truly amazing thing to me these days is not just the huge change in me, but also how much work I can do on God’s behalf now that my personality has mellowed and I've become more aware of the needs of those around me. As I have quit trying to rush through all things in life, whether driving or trying to negotiate the aisles at “Wally World” (Walmart), my slowing down and paying attention to the needs of those around me has allowed God to give me some very cool experiences. Because of the change in my character, I have slowed down and been more careful in moving through the aisles at Walmart, being more respectful and careful of other people. I have become more polite, smiling at others when our eyes meet, excusing myself humbly when our shopping carts almost collide around a blind corner, allowing others to go in front of me, being patient when the person in front of me at the checkout line takes a little bit (or even a lot) longer to get through their transaction, not worrying about my time. And as a result of my kindness, the friendliness of my demeanor, and my patience, I have had many chance conversations with wonderful, amazing people.
For example, on a recent trip to Walmart, I had stopped to patiently allow an older lady to move in front of and past me. As soon as she was past, I glanced to my left and noticed an elderly man sitting in one of the motorized carts that Walmart makes available for customers. He too was waiting on the woman to pass. At the very moment I noticed him, he looked up, our eyes met, and he began to talk. He was wearing a hat that indicated that he was a Korean War vet and had been a Marine. For 10 minutes, he unpacked his soul to me, and I probably didn’t say more than 10 or 20 words the whole time. I just nodded, listened intently, responded encouragingly, and smiled. God made me to understand that this man probably was just lonely and needed someone to talk to, someone who would pause for just a few minutes of their day, show appreciation for this aging treasure of a man, and listen carefully to his stories so that he would be reminded how much he matters to God and to other people. After we finished our conversation, I thanked him for his service. I never even told him that I was a veteran, too. It didn’t matter. I knew that I was there to serve this poor lonely man who had at one time made sacrifices for his country so that I could enjoy the many freedoms that I have.
I pray that we would all slow down a little bit more, be a little more polite to people around us, especially on the road, and that we will not be so quick to judge people and think the worst of them, even when they pull out in front of us in traffic, remembering that maybe they just made an all-too-human error in judgment. We all need a little mercy from time to time, even if we do stupid things. And God is so merciful to us when we mess up, so why shouldn’t we be merciful in turn to all those around us?