Choose kindness to save the world
This oversized pickup truck drew up dangerously close behind. I knew he was there right away for the rear-view mirror in my tiny Saturn disappeared and all I could make out was this enormous Dodge grill. The anger seeped up my neck and I could feel my face turning red. Tailgating seems to be the norm in Louisiana and when these massive trucks ride my butt it really dills my pickle.
I uttered a few unpleasantries and slowed down to give him grief. Within seconds I heard his engine roar and the guy pulled around me and took off.
You might say I had cause to be mad. I routinely drive the interstate where this happens quite often and puts me in a dangerous position. If I had to stop short and one of these trucks hit me, I’d be the dead one, not them.
And yet, I don’t want to be the angry driver. Cursing out strangers is not who I am. I don’t know their story, don’t realize their pains and problems. It’s like when my son complains about cars going way below the speed limit and I think back when my mom used to drive, right before she realized her macular degeneration made her a road hazard.
“You don’t know their story,” I told my son. “It could be a grandma like yours going to the grocery store.”
Granted, tailgating monster trucks are a different story, but the incident with the grill in my mirror gave me pause. What good does sending negativity into the universe do anyone. It’s a subject I broach in the second Viola Valentine mystery, “Ghost Town,” when Viola’s struggling with money issues in the heart of the 2008 recession. It’s only been three years since losing everything in Hurricane Katrina and the trauma remains strong in her blood stream, so when she meets a man who encourages her to use anger to get what she wants, she tries it. And gets results.
In the end, however, she learns that love changes everything for the better, not fury.
Writing that book helped me work through a few anger issues — and no, not about pickups. I still carry scars from Katrina and a few other disasters that happened since then, struggle with finances since, like Viola, I too work as a freelance writer and the publishing world can be daunting at times. And then, there are those people in life, mostly men (sorry male readers, but it’s true), who dismiss, belittle and patronize women and their actions boil my oil. The scene where Vi has her car fixed and the shop owner acts that way? Happened so many times to me I can’t count. I won’t name names – Sears Automotive!! See, I’m still angry.
Recently I came across a lovely new book titled “Hope and Other Superpowers: A Life-Affirming, Love-Defending, Butt-kicking, World-saving Manifesto” by John Pavlovitz, a pastor and blogger of “Stuff That Needs to be Said.” He believes we are the superpowers to save the universe and we can do it with the stuff that matters, mainly creativity, wonder, humor, courage and, yes, kindness. In his chapter, “Only love can truly save the world (Kindness),” he writes:
“Augustine of Hippo once said, ‘Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.’ If that’s true, the first of these two children is certainly far easier for us to deliver than the second. We rarely have to work for anger; it is an almost involuntary response to the dysfunction and injustice we witness as we live and move through our days. That knee-jerk reaction that makes our blood boil, our jaws clench, and our fists ball up doesn’t require much more from us than showing up — which is probably why our Twitter feeds, talk shows, and even our heads are so filled with fury. The far more difficult task is to find the courage to do something tangible with that rage, something less violent, less destructive, and more decent than whatever incited the anger to begin with. Such bravery is often a matter of remembering how strong we’re capable of being.”
Viola realizes this strength by the end of “Ghost Town” and with the help of others, uses love to save the day. Like my character, I struggle every day to dismiss the anger and find the courage. And it doesn’t help that our current political system is so volatile and divisive.
Finding that strength is a work in progress. But hey, if a character of my own making can do it…
How about you?