I was turning left out of the school parking lot when a mom parked across the street decided to cut out in front of me. I paused, waiting for her to maneuver her minivan into the lane. She glanced at me, irritated, and then pointed in the opposite direction, mouthing the words: "GO THE OTHER WAY!" I just sat there, staring at her and thinking: Are you actually telling me to make a right turn when I'm doing you a favor and letting you in? I need to make a left turn! YOU go the other way, lady!
Eventually, she pulled in front of me and I followed behind, muttering under my breath, "Who does she think she is, anyway? Does she boss everyone around like this?"
Suddenly, in the middle of my self-righteous indignation, a different thought wedged itself in: Elizabeth, is there a Right Turn Only sign at the parking lot exit?
That stopped me. No, no. There couldn't be a Right Turn Only sign. I'd been turning left out of that parking lot the entire school year!
Something nagged me.
Later, when picking the boys up from school, I glanced at the parking lot exit. Sure enough, there was a sign. A GREAT BIG HUGE ORANGE SIGN WITH ALL CAP LETTERS: RIGHT TURN ONLY!
Dude. I felt so sheepish I wanted to let out a pathetic baaaaaaaahhhhh. That mom wasn't bossing me around! She was trying to inform me that I was making an illegal left turn.
In all honesty I've simply never seen that sign. I've been so focused on getting to my next drop-off that I've been making illegal left turns out of sheer ignorance.
Regardless, I'm ashamed by how quickly I leapt to judgment, how quickly I believed she was wrong and I was right. I'm embarrassed by my sense of entitlement; I was all miffed that she wasn't grateful for my supposed "favor" of letting her in. And not only did I assume the worst about her, but I had built an entire case against her character: she was a nosy, bossy, disrespectful ingrate!
What I was really doing was building a case against myself. I plead guilty, your Honor.
This whole incident has got me feeling pretty humbled this week. It's made me wonder how many times I go crashing blindly through life, completely unaware of the pain or inconvenience I may be causing others. I wonder how many times well-meaning friends or strangers have tried to warn me or remind me of clearly marked signs and instead of listening, I think I know better. And worse, I make mean-spirited criticisms about their lack of character.
It's a sobering reminder, especially as I attempt to live mindfully this year. I realize I can't do this life thing alone. I need the support, wisdom, input and accountability of community because I have blind-spots. I might think I've exhausted every possibility or thought my way through every eventuality, but I haven't.
Apparently, I'm still pretty capable of missing THE BIG HUGE SIGNS.