I drive a Jeep. It’s great! Although, if I’m honest, it’s a little bit more difficult to get into than any other car I’ve driven before. It’s been lifted, apparently? Someone told me that was the proper term for the big wheels it rides on. In my mind I look young and cool when I drive it. I’m going to stick with that image and refrain from inviting other opinions, which I’m sure would reach quite the opposite conclusion.
There is one aspect of the Jeep experience no one prepared us for when we got the car. As I drove about, minding my own business and maintaining the pretense of cool, other Jeep drivers were making hand signals at me. Specifically, it looked like they were giving me the Winston Churchill peace sign—first and second finger of the right hand standing above the steering wheel.
I didn’t know what to make of this, but it was happening regularly enough that, being the cool dude that I am because I drive a Jeep, I realized it meant something. Being the cool dude that I am because I drive a Jeep, I did a little research.
There’s a Jeep Wave! And I was now entitled to use it! Because I am a cool dude with a Jeep!
Apparently owning a Jeep doesn’t just open up the opportunity to drive off road (if you have the confidence; I don’t!) but it’s also an honor to be a member of this club alongside other likeminded, intelligent, bumpy ride-loving drivers!
So, now I do the Jeep Wave. I get more excited than I think I should as I turn a corner and see another Jeep approaching. I prepare my fingers, flex them just to make sure I’m warmed up, and then I let the wave go in all its glory. And oh what a thrill when I see the wave coming back. I’m part of the club! Membership brings its downfalls, though. I confess to feeling very guilty when I forget and the other driver presents the wave. How must driver feel I think? Am I being snooty? Uppity? I feel like turning my Jeep around to follow and apologize. And then the reverse happens—when I wave and I don’t get a response. What’s wrong with me? Don’t they like me? Am I not young and cool?
Being part of something comes with benefits and also challenges. My Jeep club membership is a small and quirky experience, I know. It’s the strangest thing that the people behind the wheel doing the Jeep Wave are all very different yet connected through the club of owning a Jeep. But in all seriousness, belonging is a critical part of life. It’s foundational to our sense of emotional safety and well-being.
I’m a newcomer to the club, but no one has told me to go home to my old car. Quite the opposite. The wave means “Welcome to the club.”
Belonging is a good thing. That’s not the problem.
The problem comes when we start to think I am cool enough to own a Jeep and do the wave and you are not. And in fact you don’t deserve to be on the road at all. So just get off the road and leave me and my Jeep alone.
We need more inclusive clubs, open to all. Just like Jeep drivers we forget to wave sometimes and, we may not feel good if we aren’t waved at. But being denied their proper place on the road of life is an indignity no one should have to experience. None of us should tell anyone else to get off the road.
I wish everyone could feel as cool as I feel in my Jeep doing the wave—and to know they are welcome and safe, wherever the road of life takes them. That’s what I want for all my colleagues at Aspire…
Antony Sheehan (he/him/his)
President & CEO
Aspire Health Alliance