On Saturday, we went to a housewarming party. When it was time to leave, we said goodbye and made our way to our car. I had just put the car in reverse when the host, my friend Jim, and one of the guests came around the corner making, “hold on!” motions at CDG and me. So, I stopped.
Jim came over to the passenger window with the guest, who we hadn’t met while we were there, and said, “this is my friend, Quinn*.”
I said hello and Quinn said, “Hi! So, when I was pulling my car out of the driveway, I hit your car and caused some damage. I wanted to let you know.”
I put the car in park and got out to survey the damage, which was just a tiny scratch on the back bumper, which was still attached properly on both sides. I looked at Quinn and said, “I have all of my fingers and toes, so does my wife. Don’t stress about it at all… it’s just a scratch. Is your car okay?”
Quinn's car was fine and they asked if I wanted to exchange information, which I didn’t. Jim joked that he wished it was his car, which is a total lemon, and we parted ways.
Jim texted me to thank us for coming to the party and, in the text, he reiterated that if I needed Quinn's information, he’d be happy to get it for me. I got the sense that he felt badly about it and that, potentially, Quinn felt badly, too. “Cars aren’t valuable; people are,” I texted. “If, this week, my car starts making noises and I learn that there’s a larger issue, I’ll reach out. Otherwise, I really don’t care.”
And I really don’t. Cars are meant to get us from point A to point B and to keep us as safe as possible in the process. Accidents happen. Quinn was not drunk or being irresponsible or malicious. They did the right thing by letting me know, we checked it out, and that’s that. End of story.
If only my brain operated that way. You see, since then, I’ve been thinking about what kind of ripple that sort of thing creates.
- Were Quinn and I meant to meet? Will I encounter them in the future? Will they be a future coworker?
- If they hadn’t hit my car and I backed out when we were initially in motion, would we have been hit by someone else, or worse? Would Quinn have been?
- Will Quinn, Jim, or anyone else at the party who found out about it, react differently if that happens to them in the future?
- Will they tell that story to someone who will react with kindness and avoid a potential road rage altercation? Will they teach their loved ones how to react with kindness and compassion? Will they change the way they place value on "things"?
And then I catch myself.
Everything happens for a reason, but I don’t need to know the reason.
That happened in that moment and the only thing I could control was my reaction.
That takes practice.
My practice worked on Saturday.
I’m proud of that.