Ashbourne News Telegraph - - OPINIONS & LETTERS - By Rev Dun­can Bal­lard Ash­bourne Group of parishes

I PROB­A­BLY shouldn’t have done it. In fact, on re­flec­tion I’m sure I should have known bet­ter – but I just couldn’t re­sist.

There I was, driv­ing to the su­per­mar­ket against the flow of traf­fic and ev­ery sin­gle per­son driv­ing to­wards me looked as mis­er­able as... sin. Ad­mit­tedly it was quite early in the morn­ing – but, even so!

I reck­oned that if they looked that glum be­fore they even got to work, then the chances of their day im­prov­ing were pretty slen­der, to say the least.

So, I re­solved to do some­thing about it. The traf­fic was very slow, so we all got a good chance to look at each other through the wind­screen of the car com­ing the other way.

I de­cided that I would smile point­edly at ev­ery sin­gle driver com­ing to­wards me, in the hope of elic­it­ing some kind of re­sponse from them. And did I get one? Did I heck!

I drove the en­tire length of that road with­out a sin­gle pos­i­tive re­sponse. They all con­tin­ued to glower out at the world from un­der fur­rowed eye­brows. In fact if any­thing, some of them looked even worse. So much for my bril­liant scheme!

Of course, I’ve got no idea what made them look so mis­er­able. They might have been dread­ing that par­tic­u­lar day at work, they might have had an ar­gu­ment with some­one they love, or fallen out with the dog!

Their smile might have been wiped away by some far deeper prob­lem which just won’t go away. What­ever it was, a silly grin from some to­tal stranger in the car com­ing the other way wasn’t go­ing to make much dif­fer­ence.

It’s one thing to take an in­ter­est in each other: in fact, it’s one of the best things about be­ing hu­man. But think­ing we can sort out each other’s lives, even by flash­ing a silly grin at a pass­ing mo­torist, is an­other thing al­to­gether.

The Apos­tle Paul was one of the peo­ple who founded the Chris­tian church. He trav­elled from city to city and coun­try to coun­try, al­ways re­ly­ing on the kind­ness of oth­ers to give him a bed for the night or a meal. Later on, he wrote to some of his new-found Chris­tian friends that we should “bear each oth­ers’ bur­dens” This was a way to help the other per­son with­out in­ter­fer­ing in their life.

I’m not sure that grin­ning inanely at sleepy peo­ple re­ally fits the bill. There are far bet­ter ways to lighten some­body’s load.

But if you see some to­tal stranger smil­ing at you in the rush hour – at least you’ll know who it is.

The frus­tra­tions of mo­tor­ing

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