August 19, 2021
Exiting Trader Joe’s and pushing my full cart into the parking lot on Thursday afternoon, I struck up a conversation with Bill. Although we were only acquaintances, Bill was a friendly and familiar face who always seemed to be working on the days I shopped there.
We stopped in our tracks. Our conversation stood as still as the parked cars surrounding us as we positioned ourselves just a few feet from my car.
Rather than seeing two cars parked next to each other within their white-lined boundaries, we saw one car parked within inches of the other - completely violating the boundary rule. The improperly parked Jeep made it impossible for the other car’s driver to open the car door.
Bill shook his head disapprovingly and said, “That guy’s gonna have a tough time getting out.”
Still holding onto my cart and firmly rooted on the black asphalt, I said, “Yep. She sure is.” Then I clicked the fob to raise the trunk. “By any chance, Bill, can you do an “all call” in the store and ask the driver to come out?”
“We don’t have a PA system.”
As we stood assessing the situation, the two passengers of another car who had recently parked to my right got out and grabbed their shopping bags. Their conversation abruptly stopped, and they stood next to Bill and me. Over my left shoulder, I heard another woman approaching. “There is no way that Jeep is going to pull out and not hit your car,” she announced. “I work for an insurance agency. Take pictures now - and get all angles.” I did just that.
We all kept glancing back toward the store’s sliding glass doors, hopeful that the driver of the Jeep would start running toward us - apologetically - ready to right the wrong. I won’t make you wait as long as I did. The driver never appeared.
The couple to my right suggested moving their car back out of the parking stall, thus offering me more space to angle myself out.
“This makes me so uncomfortable,” I admitted.
“If they move their car, I can get you out,” Bill confidently assured me.
I handed Bill my car keys. The couple gave up their spot and pulled out. Bill had to climb through the passenger’s side, over the emergency brake, and into the driver’s seat. I stood in the abandoned parking stall to keep others from parking there while Bill cautiously and carefully backed out my car. Once he had me going in the right direction, he put the car in park and hopped out.
“Do you hug?!” I gratefully asked with my arms outstretched.
“Yes, I do,” he said smiling. And that was that. I waved, smiled, and off I went.
Just a few miles into my drive home, the podcast I’d been listening to began talking about how our country must return to relying on good character and a stronger community. During the interview, Rod Dreher shared how see-judge-act was once a method of analysis that groups would set into motion when social solidarity and justice were the goals.
Here’s how that worked. In a nutshell, when a circumstance arose, the community would come together to “see” the situation at hand. Using wise “judgment,” they would devise a plan. Together, they would “act.” This three-step process solved issues, promoted peace, and brought people together.
“Sounds delightful,” I thought. Then it struck me. “We just did this!”
Rather than waste our time being irritated with the Jeep driver, kicking his tires, or devising a plan of vengeance, five strangers saw the circumstance for what it was. They offered wise counsel; together we acted. Problem solved. No amount of hate was involved or unkind words spoken. Common good took precedence. Human solidarity and dignity stood on higher ground.
There’s hope, my friend.