It’s been a minute or two since I’ve put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard sounds so much less romantic). I always forget how much I need to write and love to write until I sit down to do it. I see things every day that cause me to pause and consider, and sometimes they start to bubble over and must come out somewhere. Now you know the very strategic method I use when deciding what to blog about here.
The other day the children and I stormed, umm…. took an outing to the library in Oxford. Since we were in Oxford and we love good food that is also not funkified and GMO’ed up, we stopped in at the local Chipotle. This is where it gets interesting. The two little boys wanted to sit outside, and, since there were a zillion people eating at Chipotle, I gladly obliged. We carried our food outside and parked it next to an adorable group of college girls enjoying their lunch. Carter wasn’t halfway through his man-sized burrito when a little old guy pulled up in front of us and began attempting to parallel park. I say he attempted because it did not go well. He pulled up beside the front van, and everything was fine. He cut his wheel and backed in between my car and the van in front. He backed up too far and bumped my car. It lurched a bit. The girls beside us gasped. This is where it started to feel like a candid camera episode. “Let’s watch this lady’s reaction as this person continually hits her car right in front of her.” He pulled forward again, backed up again, and hit my car AGAIN. By now the girls beside us were losing it. I was like, “Oh, he hit it again.” Third time’s a charm, right? Not so much. He pulled out, pulled back in again, hit my car for the THIRD time, and tapped the van in front this time. Everyone was losing their minds, except me. I found it almost comical. Fourth attempt he nailed it, not my car, the parallel parking. I should mention that his lovely wife was in the car with him the entire time, and I was watching her face as he was hitting every car in sight. It did not register an ounce of surprise. She was totally chill. I should also mention that he had the strangest apparatus on the back bumper of his car (that was totally scratched and dented on both sides). It looked like a metal detector or lightening rod of some sort. Adam later explained to me that this is to help him gauge where his bumper is. Ha! So, he had FINALLY, successfully parked. He walked around and opened the door for his little wife, she took his arm, and they happily crossed the street together.
As I watched them merrily walk away, I thought, “How nice that he opened the door for his wife and she took his arm. Adorable.”
Next, I did what anyone else would do ;). I shared it on Facebook. It never really occurred to me that I should be irate. Should he have tried to find out whose car he had just hit three times? Of course that is decent and right, but I wasn’t angry. It just isn’t my default emotion, I suppose. Now, I do get angry; but my car isn’t a trigger. My Facebook friends had some funny responses. A lot of people were surprised by my casual attitude about it. Many said he was lucky that he hit me and not someone else. This made me pause and think about why I didn’t get angry. I mean, this guy did just hit my car three times and didn’t even apologize. I think there are a few things that contributed to my lack of emotion. First of all, I have hit so many curbs with that car that my sweet husband has it bolted together underneath. I understand that accidents happen because I have accidentally “bumped” into a few things myself. This guy obviously knows he has a problem hitting things (hence the contraption on his bumper). I also know that I am far from perfect too. It sort of reminded me of the time the 87-year-old woman hit my car, and all her children showed up (another story altogether).
I get it.
I don’t think he left his house and thought, “I’ll just run down to Chipotle and see whose car I can hit repeatedly today.” If there is one word that described my thought process it would be GRACE. Things happen around me and sometimes to me, and I don’t get to choose; but I do get to choose how I respond to them. I need grace. Every. Single. Day. Therefore, I choose to give it.
So this has been running on repeat through my mind lately, GRACE. Specifically our seeming lack of grace for one another. A couple of stories have plagued my thoughts since I first read them…
If you’re a local, or even if you’re not, chances are you've heard the story about the little boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The zoo made the very difficult and unpleasant decision to end the life of the gorilla for the sake of saving the life of the child. The chaos, wrath, and fury of the resident cyber zoologists and perfect parents went into complete overdrive. People were outraged, demanded justice for the gorilla and penalization for the mother they deemed negligent, and demanded there be consequences. (Because your small child falling into a gorilla enclosure, being dragged around, traumatized, and nearly killed is not consequential enough I suppose….)
Here's the thing. I have four children. I have been to the zoo with all four of them. I have had two children and one toddler while wearing a baby as we toured the exhibits. The conclusion I have come to is simple: I could have been that mother. I have a rambunctious little person who, from time to time, wanders where he ought not. I know some of you are thinking, “Why is she bringing up this zoo thing again? That’s old news.” It is old news in the sense that we have the attention span and patience of a toddler who has eaten too much Red 40. We have been conditioned to react (often overreact) and then move on to the next thing. I’m not over it, and I guarantee it’s not over for that mother, father, and their children. What continues to permeate my thoughts is grace. Where is the grace? People roasted those parents and wanted to see them suffer. The comments that were made will forever echo through the mind of that mother. Are you a parent? Has your attention ever been diverted and almost ended disastrously? Mine has. I hate to say more than once. I am human. I cannot see all things at once. Sometimes I get distracted and it is my fault, and sometimes it isn’t.
There is a time that haunts me when I think of it. I had taken all of the children swimming at a friend’s pool, and it was time to go. Right before we walked out of the gate toward the car, I took Carter’s life jacket off so it wouldn’t drip all over the car. My mom asked me a question, I turned to look at her, and answered. Then I thought, “WHERE IS CARTER?!” What I saw next will stick with me as long as I live. I found him. He was under water! I saw his eyes wide open looking up at me. I jumped over the steps into the pool (completely clothed) and scooped my baby up out of that water. What if I had been distracted a little longer? He wasn’t splashing. It wasn’t some dramatic thing. He could have drowned with me three feet away. Was I negligent? Yes, I would have to say I was. I took his lifejacket off. I turned away to talk to someone. Do you see what I’m saying??? Grace! I need it, so I give it! I’m sorry that that woman’s child fell into that enclosure. I’m sorry that a 17-year-old gorilla died as a consequence. It happened. We don’t have to blame and hate. I don’t know if that lady was being irresponsible with her children. I certainly hope not. I’m not interested in speculating on what kind of mother she is. Could I compare under the same microscope?
I choose grace.
Did you all hear about the little boy that was attacked by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort? The little boy was wading in the water along the edge of the lagoon, and an alligator snatched him up and dragged him off. The father jumped into the water and wrestled the alligator to try to rescue his child. The mother went into the water searching for her son. The little boy was found dead farther out in that lagoon. Should he have been playing in that water?There are lots of opinions about that. But let’s look at just the facts. These parents took their child to Disney World. The father tried to wrestle an alligator to save his child! The mother got in the water to search for her child when she knew there definitely was an alligator in there too. Do you think they ever considered that they would be coming home with a casket instead of just memories and Mickey Mouse hats? When you plan a trip to a Disney World resort, do you consider that an alligator may be lurking and carry off your toddler? Of course not!
This was an accident.
Accidents have all sorts of variables, and isn’t hindsight so clear on the precautions we should have and could have taken? How do you think people reacted to this news? With sympathy and compassion? Some did, many did not. People wanted to know what kind of parents let something like that happen. I can tell you what kind--human beings. If there is a perfect parent reading this, I would suggest you take a closer look. My parenting career has been speckled with mishaps and accidents. Where is the grace???
Not so very long ago, Cloe was swimming in the river. She came up out of the water with a deep, wide cut that required many stitches. It was about three inches away from being life threatening. She could have bled out and died if it had cut a little more to the left. Should I never allow my children to swim in the river because that happened, or was it part of life and just a fluke accident?
How about we start loving each other? How about we drown out those loud, critical voices with softer, but firm, voices of compassion and empathy?
Do you see how insignificant a little old guy running into my car is? Do you see how desperately we need to give grace in the small and large?
Wouldn't this world be a different place if grace and love were our go-to responses. I'm not talking about people who knowingly do terrible things. I'm talking about accidents!
I am forgiven so much, surely I can forgive much. I want to be the change in the world that I want to see, and I know it starts with me. I challenge and invite you to look for opportunities to love, serve, and comfort one another. When you look around through the lens of compassion, it changes everything.
Let's choose GRACE.
Thank you for sharing some of your day with me.
If this blessed, challenged, or encouraged you, feel free to share it. <3