When We Change the Rules

Yesterday as I was running errands back and forth across Columbia, I encountered five different drivers over the course of the afternoon who pulled a U-turn or three-point turn across a double line. I don’t mean they went up to a stoplight and turned around. I mean they pulled across a five-lane highway in one case, a two-lane road, a three-lane road, a four-lane road downtown, and in one case held up traffic on both sides of the road as they made a three-point turn in the middle of the road.

I was flabbergasted.

If anyone can understand missing a turn or getting turned around, I certainly can. It happens to me frequently because of my terrible sense of direction. When I miss a turn or miss my opportunity to change lanes in order to turn where I need to turn, I turn at a light, loop around a block and make my way back to where I was trying to go in the first place or pull into a business off the road and turn around.

It says something to me to encounter this number of people who not only put themselves in danger but also other drives in danger. I can’t help  but wonder whether we are living in a culture in which people believe the rules don’t apply to them or don’t apply to the particular circumstance they find themselves. Insisting that where we are going is so important that we can’t take the time to take a proper U-turn signifies tunnel vision in our own experience and agenda. It leads to an unwillingness to reflect on how our decisions impact other people and indeed a community. When we see patterns of complaint and patterns of ignoring rules meant to keep drivers safe, we forget the way our actions and decisions create ripples in the waters of our community.

The only way I know how to combat these phenomena is to be kind. Not nice, but kind. It is so easy to fall into bad habits and patterns whether it’s when we are driving or as we are interacting with people at work, school, or in a place of business. It takes active engagement and forethought to renew our minds and create new patterns: patterns or love and peace, patterns of respect and empathy.

I can’t think of a better time to start.