When it took me twenty minutes to drive around the block to meet my wife and son for the ride home through the “Bomb Cyclone” on Friday afternoon, I knew it was going to be a long journey. Thankfully, my day was done and I didn’t have any responsibilities waiting for me at home. Firing up the Waze GPS, it indicated that we’d traverse the 6 miles in just over 30 minutes. It was a relief given traffic was currently at a standstill. An hour later, as we once again passed our starting point, Waze was still feeling optimistic, just 35 minutes to go!
Across town, my friend was stuck at 69th Street Station. Hundreds of people huddled in the cold waiting for the bus that was to replace the train that wasn’t coming. Apparently, the bus wasn’t coming either. She sensed a spirit of kindness in the soothing words and conversations of those around her. A sense that “we’re all in this together.” One of the men near her finally arranged a ride home to his due-in-three-days pregnant wife. He proceeded to offer to share his ride with several of his new acquaintances.
The snow continued to fall and our family seemed farther from our home than when we started. Every few minutes a car would perform an awkward u-turn and head in the other direction. I tried it myself but it was of no use. It dawned on me, “None of us have any idea what to do.” We don’t know. When I looked at our situation from that perspective, I felt a real softening. Again, I was fortunate that I wasn’t hurrying to work or to care for a child or sick relative. But it helped me feel a compassion for the people in the cars surrounding me. They all wanted to get where they were going and didn’t know how to make that happen.
“I don’t know,” can be uncomfortable and uncertain. Our inherent negativity bias tells us that this feeling is dangerous, even life-threatening. But it also has the power to bring us together. Then next time you “don’t know,” explore the feeling and sense who else might be feeling the same way. Not only does connecting with a shared experience help cultivate self-compassion, it can bring us together in ways big and small. Including for a ride home. Even if it takes four hours.