To the Man in the Parking Lot Who Saw My Disability Permit
Getty image by Nantonov.
It is strange the things we remember in places we never meant to be.
I remember how my hands shook on the wheel. I remember the voice of my little girl asking if you were OK. I remember the sting of angry tears in my eyes.
But I cannot remember your face.
I can only see deep red as you pointed to the disability sign in front of my car and yelled, “You are an F$*&$#% moron!”
It only took seconds for you to take your fist to my car and determine I must be a “moron” because I had a placard in my rear view mirror.
It may have been my fault. Despite my checking my rear view mirror cam and side mirror three times. Despite my natural tendency to move with extreme caution in parking lots. Despite my inching out at turtle speed.
I may have missed you just as you walked behind my van.
It is why my heart still fell even when I knew you were unharmed. It is why I scrambled to roll down my window to apologize. It is why I couldn’t even breathe anything back at your angry words.
Then the weight of what had been said began to bubble up into anger. The kind that rages at injustice and wants to post and blog and do all the things. So all the way home, I worked through all the things I should have said to you.
About kindness. About having a disability. About restraint — especially in front of a 3-year-old little girl. But then the rest of the day came and all the things had to wait.
Wait until my 7-year-old climbed into the car and began to tell me about her day. A day that marked the first time she wore her new glasses to school. A day that had been bathed in worry over what people might say. A day when I held my breath until she said, “Mom, someone said I was goofy-looking.”
My heart fell. My eyes misted. My hand grabbed hers. And I whispered an “I’m sorry” before I asked my normally outspoken girl, “What did you say back?”
“Yup. I was really mad, Mom. I knew if I said anything it might be something that would make his heart hurt. And I didn’t want his heart to feel as badly as mine did.”
There, sitting in the echo of her words, I remembered you. Remembered how I’d lectured. Remembered how I’d railed. Remembered how I’d lashed out. Even though it was in the safety of my minivan.
This love through the eyes of my girl, the kind that cares more about the person in front of her than the need to be right, gave me the grace to let tears fall. And fall they did. At my own need to be heard. At my own need to be right. At my own need to save my pride.
And as they fell, my heart began to count all the ways real love responds.
It will slip into another’s skin and walk around a while before words are spoken. It will show up bigger and stronger than the ugliness around it. It will care more about the brokenness of a person’s heart than all that is hurled in red-faced anger and harsh words.
This kind of love isn’t about you or I.
It’s about the One whom I believe has asked us all to love like a little girl who saw what it meant to love someone as herself. A love that is so revolutionary, it can stand up to the greatest hurt this world has to offer and hurl. A love that heals and binds and brings peace. A love that changes everything because it changes me.
So even though the memories of you are faded and worn, in this moment I need to say thank you.
Thank you for reminding me that as long as I have breath, I can choose love. I can choose it no matter the anger, no matter the injustice, no matter the insult, no matter the frustration. Be it in a parking lot or a classroom or in the broken places of my own heart, I can choose to find my way back to love.
And today, that choice begins with you.
Getty image by Nantonov.