Outspoken courage and quiet grace
I did something yesterday that was so completely out of character that it left me shaking–and smiling, just a little.
It all started when I emerged from a framing store, rummaging through my purse for my errant keys as I headed for my car. A woman glanced out her driver’s side window, staring straight past me as she put her poshly appointed, yacht-sized pickup into reverse.
CRUNCH. She ran smack-dab into the family van that was parked behind her. An older model, with oxidized paint and a couple of missing rims. Someone’s trusty mode of transportation, marred further now by a shattered tail light and back-end damage.
She wheeled around to see if anyone had noticed. When I caught her eye, she lifted her hands in a shrug, as if to say, These spots are so darned small. What are you gonna do?
Suspecting her intent, I made the motion of someone writing their insurance information onto a piece of paper.
She lifted her middle fingers, tires squealing as she returned to her emptied parking stall.
I waited patiently by the driver’s side door, listened quietly when she positioned herself as the hero in a made-up story about a little girl running loose in the parking lot, venturing dangerously close to her oversized tires. “Thank God I hit the van instead of her,” she said.
“Maybe you could explain that to the owners,” I said. “But you should definitely leave them a note.”
In a flash, her demeanor went from faux-concern to fierce anger. “Who do you think you are? God’s policeman?”
I met her eyes with a leveling gaze. “You hit their car,” I said in a calm, quiet voice that camouflaged my growing unease.
“I’m a Christian,” she screamed, about two inches from my face.
Confused eye blinks. “That’s irrelevant,” I said.
“You think I don’t know right from wrong?” she asked. “F*** you.”
“Look, I don’t know anything about you. I’m just a witness to an accident. Please…leave them a note, so we can both get out of here.”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder, came at me with flailing arms. “Go f*** yourself,” she said.
A woman wheeled her shopping cart past us, made a U-turn, and situated her purchases in the small space between me and the truck driver. “Are you okay?” she asked me.
I nodded, just slightly, without dropping the truck driver’s gaze. “I’m okay,” I said, with an appreciative smile. “We’re just talking about hit-and-run accidents, that’s all.”
At this point, the truck driver decided it might be a good idea to inspect the damage she’d caused.
“Look at this van,” she said derisively. “They must be very poor.”
Where was she headed with that comment? No telling, but I didn’t want to go there.
“You hit their car,” I repeated. “Just leave them a note.”
I think she finally realized that I wasn’t going anywhere until she did just that.
She hoisted herself into the jacked-up truck, retrieved an envelope from her designer handbag, and scribbled something onto the flap. It wasn’t with a cheerful heart, I can tell you that. She was dropping verbal carpet bombs all the while, and wiping spittle from her mouth.
She then waved the scrap of paper under my nose, flounced over to the van and jammed it under the windshield wiper.
“Thanks,” I said sincerely. “You did the right thing.”
She answered me with screeching tires; left long, dark skid marks at the stop sign.
As I watched her tail lights flash red, I melted into a puddle of relief. My good intentions could’ve gone terribly wrong. But in hindsight, I doubt I would’ve have done it any other way.
In retrospect, I’m just now realizing why I did something so totally out of character, so completely out of my comfort zone. It came of feeling helpless to affect any positive change, especially after the House voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act last Thursday. Despite the effort I’d put into convincing our legislators to do the right thing, they chose otherwise– stripping good-hearted people of their right to quality health care, and separating ordinary citizens like me from their hard-earned dollars. If this triumph of meanness isn’t stopped in the Senate, millions of Americans will suffer very real, extremely dire consequences. The “least of them” especially, while the wealthy stuff yet another tax break into their Louis Vuitton handbags.
So if I were to guess my deep-seated motives, I’d describe this situation as a one-off opportunity to set things right again. For one family, at the very least.
Make no mistake: I don’t feel one bit heroic about any of this. But as a spiritually minded optimist, I see this as an affirmation of what I’ve always believed to be true: Speaking up for the causes we believe in, and standing our ground in grace–that’s how we turn bad choices toward the good.