I’m sorry I didn’t follow your posted rules.
I’m sorry it is hot today.
I’m sorry you have to spend this whole weekend standing in your parking lot telling people, No! You can’t park here!
I know I said “I’m sorry” to you out loud, but the words I wish you heard are these: for just a second, you had the chance to pause and show a little mercy, to extend a little grace, and to make someone’s day a little easier.
My son Dominic works hard (sometimes!) and earns money for working hard (sometimes!), so when he arrived at Art in the Park today, he had his money to spend. He saw that truck-shaped beeswax candle from a mile away, and obsessed over it until we went back and his money was spent. Then he carried it, sacred-like with two hands, or flew it, or drove it, or smelled it for the rest of our morning.
As dedicated and cute as he is, however, he is also only 5. So when we waited to cross the busiest street in town, he set the truck down, and it was because I said “wait, we need sunscreen, arms out, now hold on to our stroller, don’t let go, this is a busy street, yes, you may push the crosswalk button, now come right back here and hold on, watch for cars, look for all the ways you can get bumped“. Then it was time to cross, and his truck was left behind.
But that was just the beginning.
As we crossed a different street, further down the road, we came within feet of actually being hit. I say watch for cars so we don’t get bumped! to the kids all the time. But what I mean is- please, dear God, watch over my babies because “bumped by a car” is a euphemism for “lost to me forever”.
A driver, not paying attention, or driving too fast or whatever (I couldn’t see because she was turning left from behind us), failed to notice that every other car that had stopped so our family (with SO MANY CHILDREN and a giant orange stroller) could cross the street, and she screeched to within feet of my children.
And then she drove away.
No mouthed, Sorry! through the windshield. No wave or shock or stop or…anything. Just an annoyed look and a zoom away.
We finished crossing and there were many deep breaths and a few hugs, but then we discovered the truck candle was gone.
I imagined it melting by that crosswalk as my Dominic melted down in front of me.
We’ll go get it! I promise. I can stop right by the crosswalk, and if it’s there, I’ll hop right out and get it! Let’s just keep going and we’ll pray it’s still there! and we rallied. We decided milkshakes in the hundred degree heat would calm nerves and fortify our walk.
And, you know what, Man-Who-Yelled-at-Me?
Not a single person held that restaurant door as I negotiated our double stroller in and out. In fact, three grown men wiggled their way around me as I was backing out- propping one side open with my back, Dominic holding the other side for me.
Good thing my kids are helpful.
Can you see, Man-Who-Yelled-at-Me, how by the time I got to you, my faith in people was a little shaken. A little fragile, maybe?
So, after my (five) kids were finally loaded up, hot, sweaty, sticky, but mostly calm and happy-thoughts of dangerous cars and rude people mostly gone- we drove around the block, to the intersection, and: there it was! His truck! Still sitting just where Dominic had left it 30 mins before. No one took it. It hadn’t melted.
Faith in humanity restored!
All I had to do was find a place to pause, jump out, snag it and be on our merry way. But I had to do it alone.
Did you notice I was the only adult in the car? There was no way you could know, but my husband was at that very moment on a plane heading to see his grandma who’s on hospice. Another layer of hardness and sadness in my day.
So, I saw your parking lot, and (miraculously!) an open space close to the road so I could keep an eye on the kids, and I pulled in. I left the car running (I know, I know. I shouldn’t leave my kids in the car unattended-that’s a different discussion), and took off at a jog. I was going to be gone for 30 seconds, tops.
Except, then you stopped me.
I hoped after I explained what I was doing you would stop threatening to tow my van. I hoped if you could see the tears welling in my eyes, you would listen to my words, and you would understand- I wasn’t there to park for hours and block business, I was there to reclaim a precious, lost thing. I hoped that my offer to purchase something from your store, so I could be a customer, would work. I even mentioned my kids were in the car, hoping to add credence to my claim that I would “just be a second!” I hoped my calm, even tone would deflate your insistent yelling.
But mostly, I hoped you would see the five little faces peering at you through the tinted windows. And then, after I got back into the van, obviously upset, I wished you could hear their voices, Why are you sad Mommy? Why was he yelling at you? Why is he angry?
Where is my truck candle?
I realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t just upset about being yelled at. I was upset that you couldn’t see my pain. You couldn’t read my mind and know why my tears were already so close to the surface. I took my sunglasses off, and you still couldn’t see the burdens I was carrying… all the reasons that my soul was crying for some leniency, some grace, some love.
And you know what?
In that moment, I couldn’t see yours either.
So tell me, Man-Who-Yelled-at-Me, why were you so angry? What kept you to the hard line you drew? What kept you from really hearing me?
Who destroyed your faith in people today? Or yesterday or ten years ago?
Because, I’m afraid one of them was me – a gal who just wouldn’t listen to the posted signs, who wouldn’t listen to the rules, who couldn’t just move her car.
And I’m sorry.
Please know, when we finally left and I rolled down my window to say, “I hope you have a good day,” that wasn’t sarcasm.
It was a prayer.
Thank you to the other random guy who happened to be walking by. When I tearfully asked you for help from the drivers seat, you calmly walked around the corner, picked up Dominic’s treasure and delivered a little bit of hope back through my window. You made his day.
I’m also grateful for my children, who continued to show me love the whole way home. And especially to Lucia, who piped up from the way-back, “Maybe he’s just having a really hard day”.
Yeah, Baby Girl, maybe he was.