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Utah State University students are at the tail-end of their winter break, so my oldest son, my mom and I went on a road trip to visit my grandmother in Idaho.

My grandmother and I have always been close. Hers was the first phone number besides my own I memorized. Back when there was such a thing as a cheaper time to make long-distance phone calls, we had a code: I would call and let it ring once, and that was her cue to call me back, since our differing time zones meant her “cheap time” started long before mine.

Many years later, we no longer have to strategize our phone calling time beyond trying to find gaps in my hectic schedule.

Phone calls are nice, but after so much pandemic-inspired isolation, some careful in-person visits feel like a real treat. We set off first thing in the morning to make the drive, looking forward to having lunch and chatting with our mom, grandma and great-grandma.

My enthusiasm for the journey waned a bit just past Snowville, where the roads were occasionally slick with ice. Conditions were mostly OK, but the snow blowing across the road was both beautiful and nerve-wracking.

Probably it was just some pretty wintery swirls to add variety to the scenery of white mountains and near-frozen cows, but it also might be hiding a patch of ice that would cause me to skid off the road, into what my grandmother called the “borrow pit.”

I have been driving in Utah winters for more than 20 years now. I know more than I used to, but they still make me respectfully cautious.

As we drove, we saw a car with a big poster board sign taped to the back. My son leaned forward to read it better.

“I am a true California driver that never, ever drove in snow before. Please go around me,” the sign read.

This sign brought back a flood of the fearful feelings I had when I experienced my first winter in Utah as a USU student. I felt a surge of empathy for this driver, who must have been so stressed about making this road trip — both about driving in bad weather and about potentially making more experienced drivers mad.

As we passed the car, my son and I tried to show the driver a smile and an encouraging thumbs up. I don’t think she noticed, however, since she was totally consumed with driving. We saw her staring straight ahead, brow furrowed and gripping her steering wheel — maybe a little too firmly — in the 10 and 2 position.

“Ohhhh,” my son sighed sympathetically. “She is not having fun. This trip must be really, really important.”

We speculated about where this woman might be headed, and hoped she found some rest when she arrived. We also hoped she took her sign down when she parked, since she may not know that admitting you’re from California in Utah or Idaho is not always be well-received, and she seemed like she was trying to avoid hassles.

Most of all, we were struck by her humility.

Yes, she was afraid of driving in the snow, but she wasn’t afraid to admit it. She hoped that by simply admitting her fear and inexperience, she could inspire some patience in other drivers.

It can be embarrassing to reveal our shortcomings, but maybe it’s important, both for staying humble and learning to love and be loved.

Researcher and author Brene Brown is famous for her thoughts on vulnerability.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection,” she said.

This small experience on a snow-packed road showed me how true that is. I will probably never meet that other driver, but I feel connected to her and her journey. I am rooting for her, in snow or sunshine.

Surely admitting our flaws and revealing our authentic feelings are ways we can share and enhance our relationships.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,” reads Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Knowing how much I hope others will graciously put up with my shortcomings, I resolved to readily acknowledge them, and make a point to let others’ flaws slide, even if they don’t post a sign.

Contact Sally at ordinarywitness@hotmail.com.

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