This story speaks volumes about how much you don’t know what others are dealing with. You must read it through to hear the moral of this story…
The other day I was making my way around a parking lot snowbank in an effort to find a parking spot in this mayhem of Christmas shopping. A woman was coming in her car towards me with what I believed was enough time to slow down and allow me to continue on my way, out of her way, so we both could have equal space on the roadway.
She believed I needed to back up (beckoning for me to do so) so she could proceed, and I believed she could move over slightly and proceed slowly so I could straighten out and we would both have equal space on the road. I had already moved over so much so that I was about a foot away from the other parked cars in the lot. On top of that, I was going to have to back up and maneuver around that snowbank so annoyingly placed in the middle of the parking lot. Therefore, I chose not to move. And she too chose not to move. So there we were, both of us sitting there, neither of us making a move. Not because I was being obnoxious, but because it would be an unsafe move for me to make.
The woman got out of her car and approached mine, blasting me with “common courtesy would be for you to back up and let me through and then you can proceed.” I thought here we go…the angry driver in the parking lot during the crazy, busy holiday season. I calmly explained to her that I was already halfway around the snowbank when she was coming down the lot and that she would be able to more easily and safely back up than I would. I didn’t want to fight with anyone, especially not at this time of year. I firmly told her I was not moving and that since I had already moved over so much to accommodate her, I was not and could not move anymore. I said, “you should back up so we can both win here.” She reluctantly said “fair enough” and stomped off. She backed up a bit and we both proceeded to park.
As I saw the woman in the store, I felt compelled to say something further. Not to start an argument, but to clarify why I wasn’t wrong here and that it was uncool for her to bite my head off like that. I didn’t want to appear as the usual “angry belligerent black person.” Unfortunately, we have a bad enough rap for that as it is in this society, and I guess I didn’t want her going home with this idea in her head that her encounter with me, a black woman, was true as society and media put out there. Furthermore, it’s supposed to be a happy and blessed time of year and a time to show peace and kindness to others (not that we shouldn’t be doing this all year long!).
So I calmly said, “excuse me, ma’am, I’d like to have a word with you if I can.” She looked a bit annoyed and may be fearful that I’d try to start an argument, but that wasn’t my intention. She was busy with a store attendant so I walked away. As I was walking away, I contemplated just leaving the situation alone, and not returning, but I felt compelled to go back. So I did. She had a kettle in her hand, as she looked up at me.
I started off by saying I just wanted to clarify the situation and let her know that I did not appreciate her barking at me like that. She right away said she has a thing with people driving big trucks and thinking they own the road. I quickly assured her, that I don’t drive like I own the road at all, and that’s not my nature. I’ve driven an SUV all my driving life, and know how to handle them very well, but I definitely don’t drive like that of which she explained.
We once again got into the facts of who did what in the parking lot and who could have done this or that! The woman cut the conversation by saying “we will have to agree to disagree on this one!”. I said, “fine, no problem” and reassured her that I wasn’t here to argue, and it’s Christmas so why do we want to go down a negative road right now. She bid me a very merry Christmas and added that she meant it with utmost sincerity. I believed her. We shook hands as people peered at us and suddenly she started to cry…I was a bit surprised but as she continued to speak I knew something more was behind the parking lot outburst. I now started to feel my tears welling up — I’m such a softy that way. She told me that she appreciated me calling her out on her losing her temper with me and that she really shouldn’t be taking things out on people. As she continued to cry, she mentioned she’s just having a really bad day and that today was the day her mother died many years ago. I now started to cry and reached out to hug her. She held tight. So here we were, two strangers hugging and crying in the middle of the store as people watched, likely being thankful that the situation didn’t turn out to be an ugly one.
So minutes later as we exchanged apologies and hugged again, we began to part ways. It was a surreal and happy moment when I walked away feeling a sense of fulfillment, that the panging feeling inside that forced me to make sure I had a conversation with this woman resulted in me lending an ear to her when she needed it most on this very difficult day. I too have those days. January 6 of next year will be 14 years since we lost my little sister to a fatal gunshot wound to the heart. So I have moments when I’m desperately sad and just need a hug too. I gave that woman her well-needed hug!
As the woman was about to check out at the cash register, I was walking by with my shopping cart and I decided to go over and give her one of my business cards for High Heal Diaries. I explained to her the mission I am on — after having dealt with cancer three times — to speak with women in a public forum or just one on one to share my story and encourage them to share theirs as a way of helping and inspiring others to talk out their emotional struggles. She shook her head in disappointment with herself and said, “I should know better as I’m a teacher.” She then asked if I would come and speak at her school. I happily agreed as this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my time here; speak, share, listen, inspire, help and motivate others.
You see, now that you have read the full story, you can appreciate the message here. Never judge others, as you never know what they have gone through or are dealing with in their life. And that sometimes a listening ear is all someone needs in order to lift the weight of the world off their shoulders, if only for just a moment. I had no clue that out of all the people I could have had a slight run-in with, in that snowy parking lot, that it would end as it did.
Remember this story when you find yourself in a similar situation. I used to take a less favourable approach to situations like the one above, but I see that everything happens for a reason, so why not try for a more favourable outcome. If it doesn’t work out in your favour, then at least you can walk away feeling positive that you dealt with it the best way possible.
Natalie Therese Wilson,