Professional counselor and mom Hailey was on her way to work in late December of 2017, but it wasn’t a speedy journey. Instead, she got stuck behind a slow-moving car with a sign – and it had a message that made her think twice.
Hailey was the woman behind Thoughts, Dots, and Tots, an online blog where her “goal [was] to help others navigate life’s difficulties,” she wrote. To solve their problems, she relied on her personal experience, as well as her education and work.
For instance, she often shared tips for a successful marriage – and Hailey had a loving union with her husband, an emergency room nurse and her college sweetheart. The pair also had a son, who she described as a “sweet boy who is exhausting but an amazing blessing.”
Hailey earned her master’s degree in social work, too, which allowed her to write about mental health-related topics. She explained that her training allowed her “to focus on the big picture, and the ‘systems’ an individual is involved in, instead of being primarily focused on individuals.”
That very outlook would come in handy when Hailey drove to work on December 22, 2017. As any commuter knows, the drive to the office tends to run long when it begins or ends during rush hour – and slow-moving traffic can be frustrating, to say the least.
But, for Hailey, it was a particular car in front of her that was threatening to delay her journey from work to home. She knew this because a message was written in the blue SUV’s back window, right next to the spare tire.
“As I was pulling into work, I was following this car,” Hailey wrote in a Facebook post. “The sign in the back window says, ‘Learning stick sorry for any delay.’” Anyone who has learned the same skill knows that it often means stalling the engine a few times – which, of course, slows the entire trip.
Upon reading the sign, Hailey said that she instantly felt empathetic toward the driver ahead of her. “Knowing this information, I was very patient with their slow shifting, and honestly they were doing pretty well for still learning,” she went on.
But that sense of understanding came with a wave of self-reflection for Hailey. “Then I asked myself a tough question: Would I have been just as patient if the sign hadn’t been there?” the counselor wrote.
She proceeded to answer her own question. “I can almost definitely say no,” Hailey wrote next. And with that came the realization that people could be quite unsympathetic when they were unaware of what difficulties a person faced.
“We don’t know what someone is going through. We don’t wear signs that illustrate our personal struggles. You don’t see signs taped to people’s shirts that say, ‘Going through a divorce,’ or ‘Lost a child,’ or ‘Feeling depressed’ or ‘Diagnosed with cancer,’” Hailey wrote.
But the mom-of-one decided then that we shouldn’t have to qualify for each other’s compassionate treatment. Instead, it should be something we do without a sign taped to the back of a slow-moving car or any other indicator that something extraordinary was happening.
“If we could read visually what those around us are going through, we would definitely be nicer. But we shouldn’t have to see signs and have reasons to treat strangers with kindness,” Hailey wrote.
Instead, the blogger concluded with this advice. “We should do it anyway, whether we know what is going on or not. Whether they deserve it or not. Let’s give everyone an extra dose of patience, kindness and love,” Hailey wrote.
With that, Hailey shared her post via Facebook – and her message was apparently heard loud and clear by those who saw it. In fact, the four-paragraph story garnered more than 193,000 reactions, 210,000 shares and 8,400 comments.
Some readers offered tips to make driving a less stressful experience for everyone. Bonnie J. Doerr said, “When I’m following a slow driver and I know I need to ratchet down my attitude, I picture the driver with a goldfish bowl on the passenger seat.” Aggressive driving could, presumably, force faster speeds – and life-threatening sloshing of water.
Then there was Tanya Nichole Townsend, a driving instructor who used Hailey’s post to share her own message about roadway empathy. “For some of my students, it may be their first time in the driver’s seat, so please be patient if you see a student driver car… In our fast-paced lives, we’ve forgotten to breathe and be considerate,” she wrote.
But most commented to agree with Hailey’s point of view, especially after reflecting on their own “signs” they would have to hang. Cheryl Cissell wrote that she’d need “a tractor trailer with the trailer being all windows for all” of hers.
Even with her own baggage, though, Cissell knew to remain grounded and help others, just as Hailey suggested. “I may have a lot to deal with but I am well aware of the fact that there are many people or families that are dealing with even more,” she wrote.
And that thought gave Cissell all of the pause she needed to rise above – and realize how lucky she was for her minor struggles. She wrote, “I know to take a step back and count my blessings and be thankful for what I do have.”