Once in awhile I have a thunderous thought. It crashes into my world and stops me in my tracks. I begin to wonder, then research, then pray, then rinse and repeat. This is one of those times.

But first, let’s visit your drive to work. Some idiot—probably on their cell phone—has just cut you off. You take a deep breath and try not to mutter what you’re thinking. Then a huge truck zooms by in the fast lane, tailgating another car, and you wonder where that driver got their truck permit.  Oh, it’s a rental, you notice. Well, that explains it. All the way to work you see drivers who shouldn’t be on the road.  We’ve all been there.

Except one hits you just a block from your destination. Great. This was not the day for a car accident; you have a huge proposal to present in a board meeting. You get out, slam the door, and glare at the driver who has just cost you time and money, not to mention the wobbly loaner car you’ll probably be stuck in for a couple of weeks as this one gets repaired.

The other driver is full of apologies, completely stressed from the arrest of their son and the arrival of two in-laws, lost their job, on and on to explain why they crashed. But you’re all business and, frankly, you don’t want to hear it. Just give me your insurance info, blah blah blah. We’ve all got problems.

Finally, you drive away—at least the car is drivable—and you try to focus on your upcoming presentation. Except you can’t get that image out of your mind– that poor, rattled person who was literally shaking and crying. And there was something familiar there.

A fleeting thought runs through your mind. What if that was one of those people we knew from, you know, before we were born?  What if we knew we’d come to earth at the same time, and hoped we would meet?  What if they just slammed into your car, but then you slammed into their emotional world? You were brusque, irritated, kind of a jerk.

And it makes you think.  Who else has seen the brusque, impatient me?  Who else could have become my friend, but I was judging them by their appearance?

Now, this is a fictional scene. But it’s one we’ve all witnessed or been in. There are others. Ones that are even worse.  And here’s my thunderous thought: What if it’s everyone?

Think how long we lived as Spirit Children with Heavenly Father, before we came to earth for mortality.  Was it dozens of years? Hundreds? Thousands?  Was there time to, quite literally, meet everybody? We all say we can’t wait to meet Joseph Smith or Michaelangelo or Mozart or fill-in-the-blank, but maybe we already have.  Maybe every single person who crosses your path is someone you already know.

This possibility makes me tingle. I know it isn’t declared doctrine—it’s one of those things we simply haven’t been told. But logic tells me that we knew far more people than we might suppose.  The odds are that we’re encountering at least some of them while we’re here.

And how is that going? Are we friendly and kind to everyone? We’re supposed to be, but are we?  Do we look past someone’s outward appearance, put on our God glasses, and see them as a child He loves? Do we see our assignment to “gather Israel” as something we can do all the time?

Now, I’m not saying I would throw my arms around someone who just crashed into my car. In fact, I am not exactly the best driver on the road. That is precisely why I do not display any Latter-day Saint bumper stickers. I am not going to be part of the “Lose My Sheep” program and make people judge the entire church by my terrible driving. Our daughter says I drive like Cruella deVille and it’s hard to argue with that.

But here’s what I try to do: I look at people and think to myself, “Was it him? Even though he just hit my car, was he a friend in the premortal world?”  “Was it that angry lady who pushed by?”  “Was it that teenager leaning in the doorway of 7-11 and swearing to someone on her cell phone?”  I mean, it could honestly be anyone.

When you’re having one of those days, isn’t that the perfect time for someone to smile and try to lighten your load?  That’s my new goal. I want to be the person who never gives in to acting like a grump, even if it looks justified. I want to greet people with a hint of “Hey, I know you—weren’t we buddies?”  because maybe we were!

Look, driving badly is reason enough for embarrassment; I don’t need to meet up with someone after I die, and then cringe and say, “Oh my gosh—that was you that I treated so rudely?” And then I’ll remember what a dear friend they were and feel shame a mountain high.

So, let’s do this. Let’s love them here, in mortality. Share the gospel with them, as we no doubt promised, and then we can skip into the next life, eager to reunite with all our long-lost friends and say, “I knew it! I knew it was you!”

Joni Hilton is a Latter-day Saint author, Seminary teacher, and shares life hacks at https://m.youtube.com/c/jonihilton  Her novel, Golden, has just become an Amazon audiobook.