The other morning, while walking my daughters to school, a man roared by in an enormous red pickup truck and told me to f-off. Not verbally, but with his finger. He was driving way too fast and I made the mistake of looking over at him as he tore by us. I did not gesture, wave, yell, or do anything other than turn my head to see who the idiot was who was driving so recklessly up our residential street. Okay, maybe I frowned at him. And that’s when he deployed his middle finger with a nasty sneer.
The force of it was stunning, as though I’d just been slapped across the face. I felt at once furious and on the verge of tears. Here we were, just a mom and her two daughters walking to school on an otherwise beautiful San Francisco winter morning. What had I done to provoke this? Was it my yoga mat that pissed him off or the fact that I dared to look at him? What was wrong with people? Was nothing in this world sacred anymore?
I couldn’t stop thinking about the hatefulness of this person for the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon. Even in yoga class, my mind returned to it, distracting me to the point that I kept doing my warrior ones and twos on the wrong side and was unable to let go in Shavasana. I thought about comebacks I could have made if I’d had the opportunity to confront him and weren’t more of a Charlotte than a Samantha; knowing me, I probably would have said something lame like “I curse the day you were born” (a Sex and the City reference, in case you were wondering).
I finally started to feel better about the future of humanity when I learned, later that day, that my daughter’s school was taking part that week in something called the Great Kindness Challenge. An initiative of the nonprofit organization, Kids for Peace, the Great Kindness Challenge encourages kids at participating schools around the country (there’s also a similar program that families can take part in) to do as many kind acts as they can from a 50-item list that includes things like smile at 25 people, help someone up if they fall down, hold the door open for someone, and lend a pencil to a friend. The goal is to create “a culture of compassion, acceptance, unity and respect” and prevent bullying.
Here was a reminder that the best way to fight back against the hate and nastiness spewed by far too many people these days is through kindness. Through deliberate acts of kindness — not just for those we know and love but for others we interact with in our lives – we can make the world a kinder and more compassionate place. Little by little, with every kind act and word, we can create a culture of kindness where there are fewer bullies on both the playground and on the road.
So, the next time I have a run-in with the man in the enormous red pickup truck, or someone like him, I’m going to do two things. First, I will take a couple deep breaths and try my best to shake it off like Taylor Swift. Life is just too short and yoga classes too expensive to let the haters ruin my morning. And second, I’m going to remind myself of the power of kindness and recommit to doing what I can to make the world a kinder place and to teaching my kids to do the same.
And finally, to the man in the enormous red pickup truck, I have this to say to you: Namaste, peace out and please, slow the f- down!