Down the Backroads | Kindness Really Is a Way of Life in Kentucky

Posted on Sep 8, 2021

A recent survey conducted by an organization known as “Kindness.org” listed Kentucky as being the kindest state in the U.S. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I have figured that one out; no survey needed.

And while most of these types of evaluations are conducted over the phone, in writing, or on social media, I discovered just how kind we are here in the Commonwealth simply by driving down the roads and byways across the state.

I learned at an early age that most folks offer a wave of the hand when passing someone on a rural road partly because, in most small towns, everyone knows everyone. So, the chances of you knowing who you are offering a friendly wave of the hand to are very good.

But you don’t have to really know someone personally to offer that gesture of kindness. In fact, I generally make it a habit to wave at anyone and everyone I pass on the country road in my neck of the woods.

I think most people who live in these rural areas do the same thing, and I can’t recall the last time I offered a kind wave of the hand that I didn’t get one in return.

In thinking about my own experiences, I remember a story a former neighbor of mine shared with me about this very subject. He was a military chaplain for many years and spent most of his time of service away from home. While serving, he met his wife and, upon his retirement, the couple moved back to his hometown.

He told me that, one Sunday on the drive home from church, and after he had waved to several people they passed along the road, his wife asked if he knew all those folks. Of course, his answer was “No,” and she promptly questioned, “Then why are you waving at them?” To which he promptly replied, “Because that’s what we do around here.”   

And he was right. My guess is that this kindness-inspired gesture is popular in many more places than Kentucky. But since I live here, and since we are officially known as the kindest state, I would like to think we have perfected the art of the vehicle wave.

Now don’t misunderstand me, there are many out there who don’t participate in these types of good-hearted gestures. But I feel as though we should still show an act of kindness even to those who don’t respond. You never know what kind of day a person is having and often that one show of compassion from us may be just the thing to make their day better. As my mother used to say, “Be kind to everyone you meet, and to those who don’t return the favor, be even kinder.” Words to live by, I would say.

I’m pretty sure my way of taking a survey is far from scientific, but I will continue my research as I travel down the backroads.