Several weeks ago, my husband and I were at a family gathering in a residential neighbourhood. We parked our vehicle along the side of the road between two driveways, hopped out and waved to some family who had arrived at the same time as us, and went inside to enjoy a great get together.
A little over an hour later, we came out to our car to head home. And as we climbed into our vehicle, we realized that we had a ticket on our windshield. I got out, grabbed the ticket, and jumped back into the car. I unfolded the paper and giggled a little as I realized it was a parking ticket. Seriously?
My husband and I both laughed – we thought at first that it must be a prank. But as we read it a second and third time, we realized that it was in fact the real deal. The City had issued us a ticket. The ticket said that we had ‘blocked in’ a residential driveway.
I hopped out of our vehicle, feeling terrible that we had parked someone in! I needed to figure out which house deserved an apology. As I walked around our vehicle, slowly looking at the ground to see either footprints or tire tracks as a clue to whom we had ‘blocked in’ (it had been snowing that night, so it was easy to see who had come and who had gone while we had been inside) I slowly realized – there were no tire tracks or footprints leading to or from either driveway.
In other words – no one had tried to come or go; we had not blocked anyone in or out. But on this random Saturday night, we had annoyed a complete stranger enough for it to cost us almost $100.
As my husband and I drove away, uttering all the usual ‘this is ……’ expressions, I stopped to think. While I fully admit that we had been illegally parked within the letter of the law (we were not 1.5 meters away from the edge of each of the driveways that we had parked between), I realized that it must have really taken someone a lot of effort to be irritated enough to call the city on a Saturday night, and get a parking official out to their neighborhood to write us a ticket.
And the more I thought about this, the more I felt sad and sorry.
I felt sad for whoever it was who had such a terribly bad day that their only way to feel better was to punish total strangers who had done nothing wrong.
I felt sorry for whoever it was that had no other way to feel happiness or validation in their own life than to pick on the general world around them.
And then and there, I made a choice. Instead of continuing to feel wronged and to perpetuate the cycle of anger and irritation, I consciously chose instead to think a positive thought. A positive thought for the person who had ‘hurt’ my husband and I that night – that they would someday find a way to stop hurting others and start feeling happy in their own skin.
Today’s world is full of people who hurt, and who don’t know how to channel their hurt other than to hurt those around them. They feel so wronged by everything and everyone that the only way they can feel better is to purposefully punish the world right back.
Those of us who can stop this cycle need to do so – we need to afford these people our grace and our gratitude.
So the next time you get cut off in traffic even though you’ve had your turn signal on for blocks, or the next time you get shoved on the train by a stranger who is yelling loudly into their cell phone and doesn’t even give you a second look, be graceful. Remind yourself that you are the lucky one – you are the one whose life is going right and who doesn’t feel the need to wrong those around you to make it through your day.
And if someday, you get some sort of ticket like my husband and I did – use it a way to a place of grace in your own life – and be grateful that your life is your own.