A Brief Moment at an Intersection Taught Me a Lesson About Forgiveness

The compassionate micro-interaction made my day — and completely shifted my mindset.


My four-month-old son and I were struggling when I first returned to work after giving birth. He wasn’t eating very much at daycare, and neither of us were sleeping well. After a particularly rough night and groggy morning, I dropped him off and continued driving to the office. The traffic was worse than usual due to our later start, and I switched lanes without looking in my blind spot. All of a sudden, a quick horn beep startled me into a more alert state. I immediately felt ashamed and felt like a failure. What if I had caused a wreck with my young son in the car? I frowned and mouthed, “I’m sorry,” and because I am a nerd, I gave a quick Vulcan salute. 

At the next intersection, the driver I had cut off pulled up alongside me and started gesticulating. I was afraid to look in her direction — but I quickly glanced to the side. She gave me a heart signal, returned the Vulcan salute, and offered a warm smile. I turned to her and mouthed, “I’m sorry,” and pointed to my large carseat in the back of my car. She gave me a thumbs up and nodded, “You got this!”

I was instantly overcome by the generosity and kindness this stranger had returned to me in response to a mistake. I started crying uncontrollably. I was expecting to be admonished, yelled at, and made to feel even more like a failure than I already did. Instead, she saw my situation for what it was an honest mistake by a tired new mom, simply trying to do her best to hold everything together. 

The unexpected reaction of a stranger that day encouraged me to look differently at my assumptions of others’ intentions and actions. We’re all in this world trying to survive and do the best we can. The vast majority of people do not wake up each morning with the intention to harm or make things more difficult for others. I am a better, calmer, more forgiving person because of this one interaction. I find that I’m more inclined to let the little things go, and I am kinder to others and to myself. 

I also gave myself permission to go home for a nap. 

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