I’ve come to believe that tailgaters are lost souls in search of a leader, and this approach has served me well in New Jersey, the most densely-populated state in the country. The minute you leave your own driveway, you have to be prepared for the eventuality that someone in a car behind you will let you know – through, shall we say “auto-body language” – that he or she is in a hurry. Come on, come on!  Haul it, pal!  Get out of the way!

Mobile prayer has helped me with this issue, as has listening to relaxing, classical music. But most of all, I remember that I know the truth. Everybody is going somewhere.  Your destination really is no more important than mine.

I also know a much deeper truth: Everybody has light and dark within them.  It’s just a matter of what you choose to tap into at any given moment.  What you put out into the world is a reflection of what’s inside of you.

In the documentary, “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage,” a fan wanted to get lead singer, Geddy Lee’s, autograph, so she all but climbed over the band’s guitarist, Alex Lifeson, to reach him. Lifeson was not bothered by this interaction – he said, “happens all the time,” and shrugged, but I couldn’t believe the rudeness of that person.

On the flip-side, this clip of Mister Rogers testifying before Congress decades ago to convince them to continue funding public broadcasting is a great example of this truth. He doesn’t let the tough-guy posturing of the senator he’s speaking to change his kind, slow-paced manner at all. Eventually, he wins the man over with his warmth.

I remember once, a woman in a small car on the road behind me was in a big rush. She stuck so close to my bumper that you couldn’t even see the front end of her car.  It was as if she was in the car with me! Oh joy!

We both arrived at the UPS store.  She seemed not to recognize me as the person whose car she was tailgating down that long, winding road, and we entered the store. I got on line and waited to buy stamps. Great.  Now she’s on line behind me.  Gonna tailgate me here in person too, lady?!?

Out of the corner of my eye, I scoped her out.  She seemed fine, if a bit distant – but that’s how we all look when we’re around strangers at the store, isn’t it?

I happened to glance at her shoes and realized that she had found a way to match the unusual turquoise of her outfit and earrings to her shoes.  I thought that was quite an accomplishment, so I threw caution to the wind.

“Your shoes match your outfit exactly,” I said, with a guarded smile. “How did you do that?”

She smiled broadly and said, “Oh! Thank you for noticing! It took a lot of effort, but I like all my things to match.”

We chatted about inane things for a few minutes as we waited on line and I realized again what God has shown me through the years. In the right circumstances, everyone will show up as their best self. But in the anonymity of a car, or online in chat forums, negativity seeps out.

Isn’t it amazing how we don’t give a second thought to the feelings – or safety, for that matter – of the person whose car we are tailgating, but we go to great lengths to look good for strangers?

Maybe with all the clothing-makeover shows on t.v., we could crowdfund a Make-under Show.  Get past the surface, under the skin and into the soul to see how we’re really treating each other. All that matters at the end of the day is the Golden Rule. And – confidentially, I got this from a Very Reliable Source – everything goes with that color.

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