February 03, 2011

Angry Yelling in the Parking Lot

I was at Target yesterday, and as I walked out of the store (with my loaf of bread, peanut butter, goldfish crackers and a poster board for Ethan's school project), I heard some intense yelling.  A woman in a car with the window rolled down was yelling at the driver of another car:  "You're going the wrong way!" except that her language and volume I dare not replicate here.  I mean, it was a brutal verbal lashing.

The yelling echoed in my mind as I walked home.

Just a few hours earlier, I had finished reading (for the second time) Father Greg Boyle's book.  In the last chapter, he refers to the line in the song "O Holy Night" that goes, "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til he appeared and the soul felt its worth."  It seemed to me that the soul of the driver who was yelled at was probably not feeling its worth at that moment.  In fact, my own soul was struggling to feel its worth at that moment, and I wasn't even the one to whom all that vitriol was directed.

Yes, the driver was going the wrong way in the parking lot.  I don't know why.  Maybe he could not or did not see the faded painted arrows on the asphalt.  Maybe the way he should have gone was blocked by a car backing out of a parking spot.  Or, maybe he was just in a hurry.  I don't know.  But I do know that being yelled at like that kills the soul a little bit every time it happens.

The woman who did the yelling: she was in the right, technically.  She was going the right way.  No doubt this made her feel self-righteous. And so she felt justified in berating this man, pointing out to this man the error of his ways.

As I continued walking home from Target, I wondered what caused that woman to get so angry.  Her anger seemed so disproportionate to the situation.  I wondered if she just carried around her anger, anger from any number of past grievances, anger that she couldn't let go of, anger that had become internalized and which could be set off by any little thing.  Oh, what a burden to bear! 

Perhaps she herself had been the recipient of much anger, the recipient of insults, name-calling and bullying.  Perhaps a lack of love and compassion toward her had made it very hard for her to show love and compassion to others, and very hard for her to forgive others for their shortcomings.

I wondered (as I wandered, so to speak) about her relationships in life.  Did she always have to insist that she was right?  I've heard that those who insist on taking the right stand are not as close to God as those who stand in the right place, and I think there's some truth to that.  Certainly, it must be hard for people who always insist on being right to seek reconciliation and offer forgiveness.

Is it strange that my mind dwells on such things?  People's emotions can be fragile, and it's possible that one little encounter in a parking lot consisting of nothing more than an exchange of words could ruin someone's entire day.  On the other hand, I find small gestures of kindness or joy to dramatically lift me up by making my soul feel its worth, like the guy at the gas station who practically sang with joy a few weeks ago as he gave me my change, or the subway conductor who always added to his announcements: "Have a wonderful, beautiful, joyous day! Joy does come in the morning..."

Whether it's strange or not, what I witnessed in the parking lot is with me still.  It's found its way here, to my blog, and I'm pretty sure it will find its way into a sermon in another week or two.  (If you are in worship that day, just pretend it's the first time you heard the story, OK?)

Have you ever had an incident like this affect you?


Salsa with Cilantro said...

As someone once said to a bus full of football guys who were tearing apart an arrogant oponent from the team they just lost to, "Guys, maybe he just had a bad day." Don't we all, until Christ finds His way into our hearts and melts away all that anger... Your blog a good reminder to view others, whether they be strangers or friends, through the eyes of our Saviour.
I'm voting for it to make it's way into a sermon!

O said...

An interesting reflection on an all too common disurbance. Thanks. (I just finished a little blog piece that is maybe along the same lines...about doing good not bad anyway) Look forward to more of you r wandering wonderings!

Danny Bradfield said...

Thanks for the comments. (And Salsa with Cilantro, I love your name!)