In my last post I talked about that cute sign I saw on our Main street, “Be kind.” Of course, the very next day I had an opportunity to practice what I preach. God’s funny that way.
It’s been raining, raining and raining here in California. And with 7 million people living in the SF Bay Area, and a lot of them commuting on the freeways, it can get crazy. So I’m driving our son to school up in San Francisco in the car he hates. It’s a 2001, big fat Toyota Sequoia. It has a few scratches and minor dents. He is humiliated to be seen in it. (gasp! It has no wifi! It takes cassette tapes! It’s gross!) I adore this car. It has optional-when-you-need-it 4-wheel drive for wet weather! It’s big and roomy (I’m 6 feet tall.) It can hold a lot of people and gear when we go on a road trip. It is my personal tank and I love it.
It also has an awesome bike rack on the back that holds 4 bikes and easily swings out of the way if you want to open the hatch. You can see it on Amazon here.
So we are driving along and the woman in front of me stops suddenly. Although I’m in a car that weighs 5,000 pounds, I managed to stop in time. The guy behind me in the modest sedan? He didn’t. BANG!
It wasn’t super-hard, but hard enough so that our heads bounced off of our head rests. It was a pretty solid hit. We pulled over and I got out. His car? He’ll need a new bumper, grill and hood.
My car? Barely a scratch. He smacked right into that sturdy Yakima bike rack which is connected to my trailer hitch. You can see where he hit by the pink arrow. (Jest sayin’ Yakima makes awesome bike racks!)
So I get out of my car and walk back to him. The guy was much shorter than me, about 5’5.” He spoke with an accent. I hadn’t said a word before he spread his arms wide in supplication and said, “How about I just pay you a couple hundred dollars? I can’t afford to have my insurance go up.” Did I smile beatifically and think of ways to bless him? No!
My immediate, greedy thought was, “Sweet! Now I can get a couple pairs of those shoes I’ve been thinking about.” I imagined myself gleefully taking a fist full of hundred dollar bills and waltzing off to the shoe store. Suede booties here I come! Oh my carnal, black heart. Then I snapped back to reality. My son is sitting in the car! What kind of lesson would this teach him? And beyond that, I remembered the woman whose bumper I nudged last year at a stop light. She had no marks on her bumper and was barely hit by my car, but she claimed injuries. My insurance went up for three years. I thought about the injustice and disgust I felt—she was an immigration lawyer which you’d think would make her have a different attitude. I thought about how I wish it had all gone differently.
I looked at the man who was at my mercy and my heart changed from greed to compassion. “You’ve got enough to deal with in repairs. My car is fine, I don’t need your money.” And we parted ways.
My son asked why I didn’t take the money. “Remember that sign about kindness we saw the other day?” I asked. “Well this is what it looks like. It’s grace and mercy. And we all need a little more of that going around these days.”
And we weren’t late for school.