When We Make Mistakes

A few months ago, I was at a pulmonologist appointment with my four year-old son, Sam. If you’ve ever turned on a blender and forgotten to put the lid on, then you’ll know what those 90 minutes in that office were like for me. Containing my active, essentially non-verbal kiddo with Down syndrome in a 6x6 square foot area is both a joy and a Crossfit workout. “No touch. Please don’t lick that. Put those back. Close the door.” Repeat. 

When it was time to leave, I thanked the doctor and ran with Sam to the elevators, both of us eager to finish our errands and head home. 

As we slowly snaked our way out of the office parking garage, a handful of meandering pedestrians  crossed in front of the exit right in front of our car, meaning we had to brake. “Come on, people,” I thought, “I don’t have time for this.” When the last person cleared the white lines, I drove a bit further, only to brake at another crosswalk in order to accommodate those same pedestrians. Was this some kind of cosmic joke? 

Then I felt a jolt from behind and heard the sound of metal on metal.  

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumbled to myself as my frustration over a fender bender morphed into anger. Within seconds, I felt my temper rise because of this interruption to my carefully planned day, the potential damage to our only car, and the added stress to my punch drunk tot. He and I were barely hanging on to our quickly unraveling thread of patience.

I put the van in park and stepped out, expecting to see an arrogant man riddled with excuses and shmooze exit the car behind me. Instead, a woman, probably in her thirties, hoisted herself out of the driver’s seat and stood to greet me. Her swollen belly held her soon-to-be-born baby. Through tears she cried, “Oh my gosh! I am so sorry! Are you okay? I’m so, so sorry!” My own defenses crumbled as I hugged her tiny frame and said through my own tears, “It’s okay. We’re okay. Are you okay?” 

We assessed the minor damage, exchanged phone numbers, and chatted about motherhood (and the idiocy of those crosswalk locations. I mean, really.) After one final hug, we wished each other well and said goodbye. 

The drive home gave me time to process not only how I respond when someone wrongs me but also how I respond when I wrong someone else. My initial reaction to being wronged was frustration and anger. While I won’t argue the legitimacy of our initial emotions in difficult situations, I should have taken a quiet moment to breathe that day and trust God for his grace in my response before approaching my offender. Instead, with adrenaline pumping, I quickly stepped out of my car, ready to handle an aggressive male driver who existed only in my head. When a pregnant woman climbed out of her car however, the truth hit me and I was able to look at her with empathy.

Not only was I surprised by my offender’s physical appearance but also her humble response. In my desire to be right, I’ll shift blame, justify, or rationalize. Or all three, depending on the day. This unexpected incident reminds me of my ongoing need to admit my wrongdoing, intentionally or not. I’m learning to confess the ways I hurt others, offer and receive forgiveness, and work to restore what’s been broken. 

To the woman who rear-ended me: thank you for the jolt. By now you’re holding your tiny baby girl. May she--may all of us--be quick to own our mistakes, to readily say, “I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”


Get to know the blogger…

What is your favorite book?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I broke out into a sweat trying to narrow it down to these two. I simply cannot choose one. Forgive me.

One food I used to hate but now I love?

Avocados. Please pass the guacamole.

What are the 3 most powerful words that changed your life?

Courage, dear heart.