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The Kindness Of Strangers

We have spent most of the day in Baton Rouge, doing last-minute Christmas shopping. Home now, at the end of the day, I’m thinking about pretty much the first thing that happened to us on the journey. We were driving south on Highway 61, and were passing some chemical plants in an industrial part of north Baton Rouge when we saw the pick-up truck in front of us pull over on the shoulder. In the next instant, I saw why: a funeral procession was about to pass in the northbound lanes.

I pulled over behind the man in the truck. We are Southern people; we pull over when a funeral passes by. To be honest, I might not have done it if not for that man. I would have turned my headlights on, but would have resisted the impulse to pull over on the shoulder and stop, even though I was raised to do that. I would have said to myself, “It will be enough if I turn my lights on out of respect for the dead, because let’s be honest, we have a lot of shopping to do today.”

That man in that pick-up helped me find my better self. I watched him take his trucker’s cap off as the hearse passed. Can you imagine that? He didn’t even know who it was passing by, but he respected the dead person enough to pull over, and to remove his cap, even though he was sitting in the cab of his pick-up. Julie and I said silent prayers for the dead, and when the last car in the procession passed, we started our journey again, behind the man in the pick-up.

Watching this stranger accelerate in his pick-up and move away from us, I couldn’t help thinking about our intense exchanges here over the Phil Robertson controversy in recent days, and that the only important thing many people in this country would care to know about that man in front of us is his opinion about homosexuality. Given the clues — white man, dirty pick-up, trucker’s cap, Louisiana plates — it’s a safe bet that this man shares Robertson’s opinions about most things. But there he was, showing humanity by stopping his day to honor a man, no doubt a perfect stranger, making his last miles on this earth. He didn’t have to do that. People of my mom and dad’s generation did it, and do it, all the time, but it’s less common today (indeed, many more cars passed us than stopped behind us out of respect for the dead). But that man did it, and because he did it, he reminded me of my own humanity, and what I owed to the dead man (or woman) passing us by, simply because of our shared humanity.

It was the kind of gesture nearly everybody reading this would have been touched by. But hey, maybe the kind and gallant stranger was a gay man and a liberal Democrat. We have them around here. It’s true that for too many of us conservatives, that’s all we would need to know about him to dismiss him as one of Them. The Other. Not worth our time or consideration, except insofar as we can condemn him.

Tonight when I got home, I saw that a reader sent me an e-mail with a link to a Megan McArdle post [1]. The reader commented:

She’s talking about book reviews and the internet’s general tendency toward snark, but this is very applicable to the whole Phil Robertson/GQ tempest. Folks that are hard core on the right or the left are so quick to snark on and attack those on the other side, that they completely miss out human connection. They’re so busy trying to feed their own sense of superiority, that they forget the foundational wisdom of Proverbs. This Duck Dynasty thing is the same business. Phil could have phrased his words better, and the folks demonizing him are so eager to prove how superior they are that they won’t even consider more nuanced views of people like him. Similarly, they’d probably be too busy snarking on the country talk and dress of a preacher like your (Pentecostal? I can’t recall…. his name was James, I think) friend who spoke at his mother’s funeral, whom you wrote of earlier this year.

Anyway, here’s McArdle’s money shot:

But as with our current diet, the more you feast on negativity, the more you start craving it. After all, it’s as easy as popping a frozen pizza in the microwave, and more is always there at the store. So you start spending more of your time looking for reasons to be angry, and things that can be held in contempt, so that you can put on another exhibition of verbal superiority for your audience.

These days, 90 percent of the Internet could be subtitled “here’s another thing to hate.” I have a pet theory about why this is — why so many people spend so much time on the Internet looking to be enraged: Getting mad short-circuits anxiety, particularly anxiety about the economy, and our own eventual deaths. But whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem like a great way to spend whatever time I have left on this planet. Because there’s one thing that I never am when I am busy being hilariously outraged and offended, and that is happy.

Here is a link to a post I wrote earlier this year [2]quoting the sermon my friend James Toney gave at his mother’s grave. James has a high school education. James does not have a lot of money. James is a Pentecostal preacher who spends a lot of time ministering in country black churches (his wife is African-American) around here. He is a white man who was raised poor in Louisiana; he talks like Phil Robertson talks. I can’t speak for him, of course, but I would be shocked if his views on homosexuality were any different from Phil Robertson’s, because that’s what the Bible says. James Toney is a good man, and a real theologian, in the sense that a theologian is someone who knows God. I’m serious. Read that link. I have heard some good sermons in my lifetime, but none as good as that one, and none that taught me what Christianity really means quite like that one did. If you were in trouble, or hurting, I’m telling you that James Toney would be there to hold you up and carry you through, no matter what. Because he is humble, and because Jesus.

You just don’t know people. You think you know people, but you don’t. This is why we all have to be careful passing judgment. I don’t know who that man in the pick-up in front of me today was. I don’t know what he believes about anything. Maybe he beats his wife. Maybe he is a firefighter who runs into burning buildings to save people. Maybe he hates black people. Maybe he is married to a black woman. Maybe he’s gay, maybe he hates gays. Maybe. What I can say for sure is that on this day, he showed me what it means to be a human being. That’s not nothing.

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38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "The Kindness Of Strangers"

#1 Comment By Doctor Rockyo On December 24, 2013 @ 12:13 am

I’ve always loved the Southern and Midwestern custom of pulling off for a funeral procession (it exists in downstate Illinois, at least — perhaps other parts of the Midwest are colder). But this post jumped the duckshark, I’m afraid. Rod, with this post you’ve essentially gone from arguing that “Phil Robertson is a good person” to “all good people are Phil Robertson.”

Frankly, the only way to top this will be a Wednesday post meditating on the humble and miraculous circumstances of Phil’s frankincense-scented birth.

[NFR: There is a certain Zen quality to this comment. I could say, “The sky is blue, and the sun is shining, and isn’t it a fine day after all,” and there would be some reader who would accuse me of being bigoted against those suffering with seasonal affective disorder and all self-righteous in my meteorological privilege. — RD]

#2 Comment By VBKim On December 24, 2013 @ 12:22 am

I had a few quibbles with some of your post, but you are right, Rod, that’s not nothing. So, I’m going to ride that wave.

#3 Comment By Erin Manning On December 24, 2013 @ 12:25 am

Not only that, Rod, but in your NFR you failed to note that for the colorblind the sky is not blue–it may be green, or even orange. How–how normalcolorcentric, of you!

Seriously, though, may God grant eternal rest to the person whose funeral procession passed you by today, and to all the souls of the faithful departed, especially those who have none to pray for them.

#4 Comment By Joseph Fester On December 24, 2013 @ 12:30 am

Thanks Rod. I needed to read your good words tonight. A needed dose of a wake-up call for this sinner.

#5 Comment By charles cosimano On December 24, 2013 @ 12:44 am

It is a Southern custom. One never sees it in Illinois outside of the Southern half of the state, which culturally is more Southern than Northern. (I went to SIU Carbondale and came home with a Southern accent.) It would be unthinkable in the Chicago area where people are more likely to curse funeral processions than to respect them.

But it is true, you don’t know people and passing judgement is entertaining, we all do it, but it is wise not to take the judgement to seriously. That way you are less embarrassed if it turns out to be wrong.

#6 Comment By Displaced Californian On December 24, 2013 @ 12:53 am

I have never heard of that custom, but I’m not from the south. After my godmother died in CA, we were following the hearse from the funeral home to the church and passed a woman (Hispanic, if I remember correctly) and her children standing on the side of the road. When she saw the hearse and the cars behind it she made the sign of the cross and her children followed suit. I am Catholic, but I had never heard of that custom. It meant a lot though, to see the respect that a stranger paid to our loved one.

#7 Comment By Darth Thulhu On December 24, 2013 @ 12:56 am

Erin Manning wrote:

How–how normalcolorcentric, of you!

Pretty sure this needs more pseudo-Latin and/or pseudo-Greek to meet proper levels of academic condescension. “Chromatotypical”, perhaps? As in:

That Rod Dreher! Constantly wallowing in his unexamined chromatotypical privilege! I am outraged! ; )

#8 Comment By Charlieford On December 24, 2013 @ 1:01 am

Could we perhaps find a more appropriate phrase than “money shot”?

Thanks.

PS The quote wasn’t bad, and reinforces your larger point perhaps, since most folk, when they hear “Megan McArdle,” are reminded of her no-government solution to Sandy Hook: the kids should have rushed the shooter and taken him down. But she gets the last laugh on that: turns out, the nation agrees with her.

#9 Comment By Aaron Gross On December 24, 2013 @ 1:23 am

All these recent articles on snark have inspired me not to quote that famous joke with the punch line, “Well, it’s the least I could do, we were married for almost forty years.”

#10 Comment By Mollie On December 24, 2013 @ 2:04 am

What a nice meditation. It’s so tempting to dehumanize others — not just when talking about hot-button issues but also just when we’re driving — and this is a really nice reminder to think of what is good in others and be thankful for it.

Thank you for contributing to that civility with such regularity.

As for the funeral thing … I grew up stopping for funeral processions. It even happens in D.C. and Virginia. But I went to a funeral in Philly last year where it almost seemed like the non-funeral drivers were trying to disrupt us — darting in and out of our procession. I had the rear of the procession and it was some of the most stressful driving I’ve ever done.

In my current city, the police actually help with processions. It’s a wonderful gift from the community to not have to stress about making it to the graveside from the church.

#11 Comment By k On December 24, 2013 @ 2:24 am

To my experience it seems an old fashioned thing, from the area of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Iowa – something my grandparents there always did but don’t remember seeing in the past 20 years.

#12 Comment By Michael Guarino On December 24, 2013 @ 4:27 am

“How–how normalcolorcentric, of you!”

I believe the proper term is chromonormative.

Anyways, I think there is really no way to dispute the points made here. Perhaps some would want to quibble about attributing the snark impulse to feeding one’s sense of superiority, but, at least from personal experience, this is more true than false. If only our knees will not jerk so hard when we hear it

#13 Comment By JonF On December 24, 2013 @ 5:55 am

I recall people doing this on a rural stretch of road for my mother’s funeral procession in Ohio. That was in 1976, who knows if it would still be done there. And once the procession got into urbanized Sylvania that didn’t happen, but of course in a city there really isn’t anywhere to pull over.

#14 Comment By Liam On December 24, 2013 @ 7:15 am

Feeding anxiety is like feeding resentment: it’s not of God. It’s addictive. It’s more important to fast from that than from fleshmeat.

#15 Comment By Michelle On December 24, 2013 @ 7:49 am

This could have been a much better post had you resisted the temptation to bring it all back to this Duck nonsense.

I had no idea it was custom to pull over for a funeral procession. It’s a lovely gesture of respect to the dead but, I guarantee you, that if you did something like this in someplace like Los Angeles, the only thing people would care about is why you were messing with the flow of traffic. They wouldn’t give a hoot what your opinion about the gays was. They’d be annoyed (and that’s putting it mildly) that you were slowing them down.

We’re all in such a hurry these days that we rarely take time for these little gestures of kindness and respect that would make our world a nicer, more decent place to live. That’s one of the things I like about living in the south (we’re in North Carolina). Civility hasn’t died here yet. People are actually polite to each other. It’s not that there aren’t polite people everywhere, it just seems more pronounced here. Perhaps the pace of modern life doesn’t allow for the kind of gesture you witnesses yesterday, but I don’t think that’s really the case. Busy-ness seems to have a certain cache to it these days, even if much of it is self-inflicted.

So, while I get your point, dredging up the latest media-manufactured feeding frenzy distracted from the story, and from the rarity of gestures like this gentleman’s act. To me, the question raised here was why people don’t do these kinds of things more often and what we’ve lost because they don’t.

#16 Comment By La Lubu On December 24, 2013 @ 7:57 am

Huh. I’ve lived in Illinois all my life, and never seen it done here. Here, the custom is just to never cross a funeral procession. Turning on the headlights means you are part of the funeral procession, so…if you’re Southern and want to show respect up here, don’t turn on your headlights—it will just confuse the chase vehicle in back (either a cop or another funeral home car); they’ll think they’re supposed to stop and wait for you to merge into the procession to the cemetery. The only time I’ve seen pulling over is when the procession is making a turn—people not in the procession will pull over so as not to cross the line.

(then again, rust belt funerals tend to be scheduled on Saturdays, to accommodate all the relatives who have to travel in and not miss work. There’s less traffic on Saturdays.)

#17 Comment By Doctor Rockyo On December 24, 2013 @ 8:14 am

Now now sir. I did not accuse you of bigotry. And such was far from my intent. My intent, rather, was to plead for a respite from how Phil Robertson is the touchstone of all virtues.

As for the funereal customs of Illinois, my experience is in central Illinois, around Urbana. So not quite “southern” Illinois, but certainly not Chicagoland.

#18 Comment By Henri James On December 24, 2013 @ 8:17 am

The pull over is done in Canada as well.

#19 Comment By DG On December 24, 2013 @ 8:25 am

We always stopped for funeral processions – even to the point of waiting at green lights at intersections – in my part of NYC when I lived there. Rod, the events of the past week or so have been right in your wheelhouse and you are blasting everything over the centerfield wall. Just great, addictive reading. Keep swinging for the fences. And Merry Christmas to all.

#20 Comment By Bernie On December 24, 2013 @ 8:43 am

There always seems to be a Doctor Rockyo in our lives. Sir, your statement reflects far more about you than about Rod’s comments.

I live in an area where many cars pull over for funeral processions – and many don’t. It never fails to impress. The most memorable time for me was when my supervisor’s father died. He had been the primary family practice doctor for decades in his small town. As the procession made it’s way to the cemetery, every car we passed pulled over. I’ll never forget it.

#21 Comment By Forester On December 24, 2013 @ 8:46 am

Love this post. Glad you found your better self today. I’ll try to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration.

#22 Comment By Bart W On December 24, 2013 @ 9:21 am

It is easy to miss the humanity in people Bc of things you do not approve of in them. I know I do it. I have to rely on Christ to overcome it because it is not my natural inclination. With Christ I can see the humanity in people and love them. On my own I am prideful and at my worst think I am better than them. To an extent I have been held at arms lenghth by those I live around because I am different but oh so similar also but the differences have kept me as known but suspect by many. But as I found out earlier this year they do care for me as a person.

So in having said this we are going about the whole Phil controversy the wrong way. They are people. We should stand by our faith and beliefs but should reach out to them in love and reconciliation. Tell them what we believe and why but also that even though we feel wronged that we still love them and so does Jesus

#23 Comment By Jane On December 24, 2013 @ 9:37 am

Sometime I’d like to tell you the precise reason why I comment. It’s not for anything that Megan McArdle talks about. You could guess easily but perhaps not the details.

But that day will not be today. Because today is Christmas Eve.

Let me tell you an Internet anger/Christmas story of sorts, that I hope you’ll appreciate, being a Christian.

The purpose of the story is not to show off. It’s not like anyone actually knows me. I’m just an anonymous name on the Internet.

Last April or so, I got into an online debate on the Facebook city page for the foreign city that I live in. Emotions ran rather high, and I said something harsh. The harsh thing I said was about Christianity. I loathe it when I say or do something that I’m less than proud of. It’s not because I’m good. It’s because, as I said one time in a previous comment, my acts and speech become locked forever into the past, unable to be undone. I also don’t think that I’m forgiven for my mistakes. In the conventional sense yes. In the cosmic sense of having my debts wiped clean, no. Additionally, there’s no way for me to trace the butterfly effect of my angry words. Anger may peter out immediately. On the other hand, it may go from person to person and snowball. It may plant a feeling of negativity in someone that doesn’t emerge till years later, in an entirely different context. Who’s really to say what happens when you let loose some negativity into the world, however trivial?

So, I wanted to atone for it. I couldn’t undo what I had said, but at least some atonement would set the universe aright. Rebalance it, as it were. Counterbalance the negativity with some positivity.

There are two churches for foreigners in this city. By “for foreigners”, I mean, in English. I decided that I would attend their services, bring coffee to the worshipers, and then report back on the Facebook city page for my city, on which I had had the debate, with any sincere & genuine appreciation I could offer.

It just so happened that that Saturday the first church was doing a project on making a safe house for troubled teens and had called for volunteers. So I was able to go that Saturday, bring food, and help out. The following day, on Sunday, I attended the second church’s worship service and I was also able to bring coffee for them. At both places, they asked why I had come. When I explained, perhaps they were naturally slightly weirded out, but I really don’t mind.

I was able to report back on the Facebook city page my good experiences at both churches, and in my post, I included the worship service times and phone numbers, if anyone wanted to attend.

Shortly afterward, someone (another foreigner) contacted me to ask for directions to the second church, which I was able to provide.

At the second church, I had met a man from Indonesia. We exchanged phone numbers (as friends), and because I had only gone there that one time for a specific purpose, we didn’t stay in touch after that.

Well, today–Christmas Eve–he sent me a text message asking for the second church’s Christmas worship service times. I had no idea, but I called the church on his behalf and texted him back with the information.

So, although the effects of my Internet anger that one time is not completely known, at least some of that effect was that two Christians, living in a foreign country, were able to find a church, through me.

Merry Christmas!

(I will bring some coffee again tomorrow to the second church–but not attend the worship service–because a couple of days ago, on your blog here, I called Yahweh “petulant and despotic”, which isn’t a nice way to speak about someone else’s god, even if my argument was just. I do sincerely apologize for that.)

#24 Comment By Bobby On December 24, 2013 @ 9:54 am

Agreed. Those who favor gay rights can’t lose sight of Phil’s virtues, and of the virtues of country people in general. Still, conservatives have to be careful not to fetishize guys like Phil. His virtues, after all, don’t absolve him of his sins.

It’s good to highlight Phil’s merits to the world. But those who focus on Phil’s merits to the exclusion of his sins are no better (or worse) than those who focus on his sins to the exclusion of his virtues.

Phil’s a much better guy than the one-dimensional caricature that HuffPost readers may have of him. But he’s still a deeply flawed person. And we’re not doing him any favors if we fail to disabuse him of the ignorant stereotypes that guide his thinking on race and homosexuality.

#25 Comment By Brett R. On December 24, 2013 @ 10:01 am

IT may be more of a Southern thing for people to pull over for a funeral procession (even though I’ve seen it in the North too) but I kind of think the procession itself is not something I see much done anymore. Wakes and funerals are usually held in the evening on weekdays so working people can attend, and burials are held at the cemetery early the day after where the deceased is brought over before the mourners arrive. That’s just been my experience.

#26 Comment By jaybird On December 24, 2013 @ 10:50 am

What Lubu said… in Michigan, everyone stops at crossings for funeral processions, and allow the procession to go through the crossing un-impeded, but traffic going the other way on the same road generally doesn’t stop. We save that for emergency vehicles – cops, fire-engines and ambulances.

It does seem like funeral processions are much less common these days though… maybe because more people are opting for cremation?

#27 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 24, 2013 @ 10:58 am

As a Pagan, I have the strongest emotional attachment to the ancient traditions about the Sun, and the concept of the shortest day and the return of the Sun. In ancient Rome and in many of its conquered territories, it was all embodied in this simple phrase:

Sol invictus, the Unconquered Sun.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a popular culture quote to hand, and this one from the Star Trek episode “Bread and Circuses” (1968) is one that still makes me pause and reflect:

SPOCK: I wish we could have examined that belief of his more closely. It seems illogical for a sun worshiper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun worship is usually a primitive superstition religion.

UHURA: I’m afraid you have it all wrong, Mister Spock, all of you. I’ve been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn’t. Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.

May you all have light and warmth, from the Unconquered Sun, in the embrace of the Son of God, and your families.

#28 Comment By Jim On December 24, 2013 @ 11:20 am

“It would be unthinkable in the Chicago area where people are more likely to curse funeral processions than to respect them.”

This is disgusting ignorance. Ever seen a funeral for a Cop in Chicago?

#29 Comment By Peter H On December 24, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

Rod wrote: I couldn’t help thinking about our intense exchanges here over the Phil Robertson controversy in recent days, and that the only important thing many people in this country would care to know about that man in front of us is his opinion about homosexuality.

I’ve been doing my best to avoid getting drawn in to the Robertson kerfuffle. Mostly, I’m enjoying having my daughter home from college for Christmas break. She and I cooked a great meal last night. Unfortunately, no “view from our table,” as we were done eating before anyone thought of snapping a photo.

But I’ll take a moment away from last-minute preparations to say this: Not all of us who support same-sex marriage spend our time worrying about what the people we encounter might think about homosexuality.

I object to efforts to police thought, Whether it’s the suspension of Phil Robertson or the forced resignation of Richard Cizik. Such efforts are little more than displays of power. The unfortunate effect of this is to limit engagement and increase polarization.

Would that our civil discourse be more like dinner conversation with extended family.

#30 Comment By Turmarion On December 24, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

McArdle, my emphasis: I have a pet theory about why this is — why so many people spend so much time on the Internet looking to be enraged: Getting mad short-circuits anxiety, particularly anxiety about the economy, and our own eventual deaths.

I have said this many times, and I’m totally serious: I think the elites want to whip up hoo-hahs over social issues in order to distract people from the fact that the Republicrats both parties are in bed with big finance and are pursuing the same rapacious and destructive economic policies, to say nothing of amping up the security state and staying embroiled in endless wars. The Right can rage about how poor ol’ Phil is getting beat up on by those eeeeeeeeevul libruls, while the Left can scream about how eeeeeeeeevul Phil is and how he’s beating up on the poor gayz, and everybody gets sucked into it. Meanwhile, Wall Street, the NSA, and the military industrial complex go about their business not only undisturbed, but without people even thinking about them.

That’s why I’ve kept out of the Robertson tempest in a teapot. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty, I have not the slightest interest in the views of any of its protagonists (or those of anyone on TV in any capacity, for that matter), and I think this is all a waste of time that won’t change anybody’s minds about SSM, social issues, or duck calls. I’m with Megan–I’d rather focus on things that make me happy. and towards that end I’m really going at least to try to back off from Internet anger in the new year.

#31 Comment By W.E.B. Dupree On December 24, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

I hadn’t thought about it until now, but in the years since I moved to Los Angeles from Indiana, I don’t think I’ve seen a line of cars in a funeral procession here. I don’t know how that could be, but I just can’t remember ever seeing it on L.A. streets, so I have no idea whether people here would pull over or stop for one. I do remember that custom from when I was a kid in Indiana and Texas; my mother (from Springfield, IL) always followed it.

#32 Comment By JonF On December 24, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

I haven’t noticed a trend toward weekend funerals: my step-mother died on a Friday (2009), with visitation the next Monday and the funeral on Tuesday. A lady at my church was also just buried on a Tuesday.

Among those who are cremated there is, maybe, a small trend toward much-delayed wakes. A family friend who died in November 2008 was not memorialized under June the following year (it gave people in parts distant plenty of time to make plans, and the event was very well attended). Something similar is planned for my friend who died earlier this month, a wake Memorial Day weekend.

#33 Comment By Ken T On December 24, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Here in suburban New Jersey, the custom is about the same as described by jaybird and La Lubu above. The funeral procession (often though not always with a police escort leading) is deferred the right of way at cross streets and stop lights, but otherwise moves with the normal traffic flow. Headlights are used to identify those cars that are part of the procession; it would be confusing for other vehicles to start turning theirs on.

#34 Comment By cka2nd On December 24, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

Growing up in New York City, I think the only thing I was raised to do when I saw a funeral procession – pretty rare in my case – was to not cross it. I did learn about the minute or moment (damend short attention span!) of silence, and when I marched in gay pride parades I had no problem shushing people during the silent rembrance for those who had died of AIDS during the preceeding year.

I learned to take my hat off for funeral processions from the 1959 movie, “Imitation of Life.” As the hearse carrying Annie Johnson, the maid played by Juanita Moore, passed a man and his son, the father lifted the boy’s hat off of his head, put it in the child’s hand and lifted the hat in hand so that the boy was holding it over his heart.

I was not aware of the custom of turning the lights on and joining the procession until I saw “Taking Chance,” based on the true story of an officer who accompanied a private’s body to their shared hometown, on HBO.

This column is probably the first I’ve heard of pulling over for a funeral procession, especially one going in the opposite direction.

I don’t drive and I can’t honestly say that I’d ever ask the driver of a car I’m in to pull over or join a funeral procession, but I’ve taken my hat off in cars, on buses and on the street when they have passed, and have every intention of not only modeling the behavior but instructing others in it if I’m ever at a bus stop with folks who don’t know better.

#35 Comment By mwing On December 24, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

That is interesting and sweet. Up in Boston, I’ve never seen people going the other way on a road pull over when a funeral passes. Then again, I’ve never seen a funeral procession on a highway or rural road, only in the city where there is no-where to pull over to. Here in my mostly Catholic neighborhood, the church on the corner does a lot of funerals (an almost worrying-ly lot), and the processions are orderly and directed by cops, and people wait or pull over only as needed so as not to block the procession, or to wind up part of it. I think that stopping for funerals even if you’re not in their way is a nice custom, but wouldn’t work in a dense city.

Some older men here cross themselves when a funeral procession, ambulance or fire truck goes by. I think that may be (locally) an Irish thing, it is probably also a fading one, I’ve never seen anyone less than elderly do it.

Oh well, Merry Western and then Eastern Christmas to you!

#36 Comment By Erin Manning On December 24, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

Mwing, I do that! Cross myself and say a prayer whenever an ambulance, fire engine, or police car with flashing lights and sirens passes by. I never thought of its being an Irish custom, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

#37 Comment By JohnE_o On December 25, 2013 @ 10:00 am

I seriously doubt that anyone in this country would have even thought to wonder about the driver’s opinion on homosexuality.

There is no need to shoehorn the kerfluffle of the week into an otherwise nice post.

#38 Comment By RB On December 26, 2013 @ 10:16 am

McArdle is right about resentment. That stuff is highly addictive.

Erin Manning and Mwing, if only Mormons had something like crossing themselves! I’m grateful for emergency responders and pray as they pass for whomever they’re rushing to help.

Here in Eastern Washington, the old-timer original settler types take off hats and pull aside for funeral processions. We have a lot of foriegners here who don’t seem aware of the practice, and so they may not follow it, though I don’t fault them for it, as funeral customs usually seem like esoteric trivia to someone intent on learning day-to-day American life while they work here.