Waiting to Turn Left, Lessons in Gratitude

As a family we’ve been trying to be more intentional in practicing gratitude. Here is one strategy that is working for me:

During the week I drop off my daughter at preschool each morning. Some days drop off is easy. On those days my daughter gives me a giant hug, says “bye bye Momma”, blows me a kiss and runs off to play with her friends. Some days drop off is hard. On those days my daughter clings to me and cries when we say “bye bye”. 

As a working parent, either way, eventually I have to get in my orange car and drive to work. 

My work is not far from her school, but there is a difficult left turn blocked by the morning commute.  Each morning I wait in the middle turn lane for someone to let me over. After one of those difficult drop off mornings, I was already feeling down and as I waited and waited to turn I started feeling frustrated.  Angrily I thought “I wonder how many minutes I waste waiting to turn left?”  And mid-thought I decided to take action.  I couldn’t change the fact that some mornings saying goodbye would be hard, or that some mornings I would have to wait a long time to turn left, but I could change my perspective. I committed to try, every time I caught myself waiting to turn left, to think about something I was grateful for.

This was several months ago.

Practicing gratitude while waiting to turn left has now become part of my driving. Often it is simple little things that run through my head. On a cold day last week, I thought “I am thankful for wool coats” and then a big red pickup truck waved me across the lane. 

As the school buses, minivans and sports cars zoom past me, I realize my perspective has changed. I wait, often with a smile, counting simple blessings like dark chocolate, kisses “bye bye”, and middle school band concerts.  I now watch the vehicles racing to work with a different understanding.

Give it a try. Next time you find yourself waiting to turn left, think of something for which you are truly thankful. Then if someone lets you over, flash them a smile of gratitude.  After all, we’re all on this proverbial freeway together.  

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