This is a story about one and sadly not the other.
This past weekend was a wet and cold one. We currently have family in town. On Saturday we all gathered in a tiny dojo to watch Bug graduate to a yellow belt in karate (HUGE deal, you guys, can I get a quick round of applause?). And after church today, we decided to bring the whole gang out to Gatlinburg for a day at the aquarium. Perfect for a rainy day with a chance of flurries.
Because of this wintry weather, we broke the rules and dropped everyone off in the Trolley Only lane. By the time six of us, including three kids, a stroller, and thirty pounds of diaper bags, tumbled out of two cars, the trolley had arrived, and we, along with the two other cars behind us, were holding it up.
We broke the rules, and an angry woman waiting to get on the trolley came up to tell me that.
Now, I know I usually come across this blog as a sweet, mild-tempered, meek Proverbs 31 woman (RIGHT, you guys?) but I can sometimes have a razor sharp tongue. This was one of those times.
I might have argued back. I might have pointed out that she hadn’t been waiting in the rain, that I had children I didn’t want wet and cold, that I was fully aware of the traffic jam, as were, I was sure, the other two cars behind us. I might have laughed in her direction when she finally boarded the trolley and the driver decided to step off for a smoke break. I might have said to my mother but loud enough for my words to carry that I hoped she wasn’t in a hurry, that the traffic still wasn’t moving, that she was probably just mad because she was having a bad hair day, and maybe a few other sharply-laced barbs I am too ashamed to own.
I might just be a snarky little turd.
After laughing about it with my mother and sister-in-law and filling in my husband, who had missed the whole incident, I barely gave her another thought.
Until 2:30am (when I actually started writing this) when I woke up to a whimpering Bean. After I comforted my child back to sleep, I started thinking of some other quips I might have said. I thought about my quick wit, how her only retaliation was repeating our inconsideration and the reality that we had indeed broken the rules and held up traffic. I thought about how I surely had won that battle of words.
Then I wondered if she had given me another thought today, if my words had kept her up. I wondered what might have happened if I had just apologized, foregoing the right I thought I had to call her irritation and raise with sarcasm. I wondered if she felt bigger because she had confronted a rule breaker, but left feeling smaller.
Now, at 3:02am I feel far less proud of my wit and much more annoyed with my inability to clamp down on my tongue. I want to explain my rottenness, to dilute it. I want to choose to remember her bitter tone, her singling me out to attack, and consider my actions justified.
But I know it isn’t about how I can stand up for myself, how I don’t let anyone talk down to me.
It’s about refusing to show kindness, about failing to to see what Jesus sees, about holding on tightly to my pride. It’s about trying to transfer the guilt I felt for inconveniencing a trolley full of people when my transgression was called to light. It was about retaliation.
I no longer feel like I had some right to put her in her place, or that she should have been more understanding when I clearly was not. And I cannot help but feel a tiny bit grateful that my husband, a much bigger person with a much deeper well of patience, as well as both my kids, had missed my example of how to be a troll.
And I wonder if someone else had been kind to her today, because I most deliberately was not.