Life Lessons from Driving
If any of you reading this know me personally, you know that I commute twice a week to Loyola from about an hour south of Chicago. I know, I’m one of those crazy people that spends half their morning driving and sitting in traffic. Commuting has, surprisingly, served me very well over the past several months. I get to experience social work in two totally different places, I can be close to my family, and I get to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise every time I drive to the city. As I make my trips in the mornings and then travel home in the afternoons, I often find myself thinking about how driving can teach us a lot about life and the way we relate to other people. Yes, I know, that seems like quite a stretch, but after driving 45 minutes and then sitting in traffic for another 45 minutes, one’s mind tends to wander. Allow me to elaborate with an example.
Just today I began my morning commute around 7:15am. As I was traveling I noticed that some of my driving habits have changed. I have become what I would call “Horn Happy”. I am increasingly paranoid that at any given moment someone will veer into my lane and I will be forced to drive onto the shoulder or frantically get into another lane, hoping that there is no oncoming traffic. I realized that I have come to expect this. Horn at the ready, I am always prepared for a driving disaster, always expecting the other person to make an error forcing me to correct it. This exact scenario actually happened to me this morning. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the collision. The other driver recognized his mistake and gave an apologetic wave, and I waved back so he would know that I wasn’t mad, just shaken up a bit.
I think this story contains concepts that are very applicable to social work practice. I’ve found that it is sometimes difficult to expect great things from a situation that I have seen fail many times before. In fact, sometimes I actually expect the worst. So when I was driving this morning and making those connections, I realized that I could have a real problem on my hands if not dealt with. I imagine that many of you can relate. Jaded by the shortcomings of the past, sometimes we forget to think in terms of possibilities rather than probabilities. It’s so important for us as social workers to remember what our role is. We are, at times, someone’s only source of hope. We must be strong in our belief that, no matter how difficult a situation may seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, you could be the person to point out the silver lining in someone else’s cloud. Don’t miss that opportunity by expecting the worst. It’s time to get your hand away from the horn and just enjoy the ride.