July 2013

Thoughts from the Other Side of a Traffic Jam


Driving along the 401, enjoying both the weather and the music on the radio, I was looking forward to meeting a friend for lunch. And then I glanced over to the traffic going the other direction – except that it wasn’t actually “going” anywhere at that moment. Instead it was stuck behind an apparently-recent accident, with several cars sprawled across two lanes and the police on-site. As I always do when I see such a scene, I offered prayerful thoughts for the people in the accident and their loved ones; and I silently thanked the police for their assistance.

I also thought about the countless people who were stuck behind them — on their way to un-guessable destinations for myriad reasons. For the next few minutes I saw other cars helplessly joining the queue. And then there were more, still at full speed, their drivers unaware of the mess they were about to join just beyond the next turn in the road.

We’ve probably all been in this situation ourselves, whether through a traffic delay or something else that takes us completely by surprise. Life is good; we’re soaring ahead, on our way to something. And then it all changes.

There is much to consider from this situation, including the seemingly randomness of life – or at least the unpredictability. We think we’re in control and then we’re reminded that we’re not.

Overall though, I don’t find this depressing or even distressing. Annoying and frustrating at times, yes. But otherwise, well, isn’t life supposed to challenge us? Don’t we learn and grow through tests? Wouldn’t we be bored if we had no problems to solve? Isn’t it gratifying to be needed and also to need others?

Our interdependence is obvious in a traffic situation. If I am late to wherever I am heading then others are impacted, and this sends ripples of change to even more people. And there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

This connection to each other is especially obvious within families and friendship groups, as frequent interactions take place. But it doesn’t end there. We can extend this idea to a neighborhood and then to our cities and so on.

Taking both a local and a global view to this inter-relatedness, surely we want to live together peacefully, fruitfully, healthfully, joyfully. As Abdul-Baha said, “All men are of one family . . . let us join together to hasten forward the Divine Cause of unity, until all humanity knows itself to be one family, joined together in love.”

The next time I am stuck in traffic or otherwise inconvenienced by a situation that I didn’t myself create I want to remember that on the other end of my own difficulties is someone else who needs me to help them. My response may be direct — as offering personal service. Or it may be indirect — as quietly praying for their welfare and being patient.

Every day I wish others well and hope that the feeling will be reciprocated when I’m the one in need. We all are sometimes stuck in traffic, whether literally or not. So inevitably it will be my turn, sometime in the future.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2013