I was in a hurry, driving into the mall's parking lot, hardly looking to right and left.
"Slow down!" my right side of the brain instructed the left side. It
was somewhere in that mid-conscious level that thoughts were targeting
one another for reason.
How many errands were buzzing in my tired head.
Somewhere in my peripheral vision there was a young girl pushing a
load of shopping carts toward the grocery store. There must have been
twenty to thirty of those huge metal carriers locked into one another.
I had space enough. There was no danger. I could swing around that
slow moving train of silver gleam headed for the lineup outside the food
So it was that I meandered my car to the right of those carriages,
then spied an empty space near the drug store where I could park, dash
in for a quick purchase and then dash back to the steering wheel.
As I flung open the car door, I looked up to see that young girl. She
was peering straight at me. How could she have got to that part of the
parking lot so quickly after having pushed all those heavy carts?
Anyhow, there she was, a hurt look on her face.
"When are you going to learn to drive with sense?" she called out to me, not very happy with my presence.
With a sad glance down to the pavement, she turned around, having accomplished what her sense of justice had prodded.
Before I realized what had happened, she had disappeared among the cars lined up as toy soldiers.
I went into the drug store, bought my trinket and felt troubled way
down deep inside. All of a sudden the Christmas cheer had disappeared
from my heart. No amount of painted reindeer on poles outside could
erase the picture of that girl's look.
"What have I done?" I asked my inner wilted self.
What I had done was to drive thoughtlessly, carelessly. I had also
brought pain to a young person at the most holy season of the year. It
simply was not right.
But what could I do about it? She was gone, meshed in with the hub-bub outside. She'd be forgotten in the day's upset.
However, when I walked toward my car again, there she was. But this
time she was not bothering to scold me. She was simply gathering another
heap of carriages, tugging at their arms and legs to get them in line
for another trip back to the stone wall.
I saw her face again. It was not happy. She was cold, tired and
wanting to go home after a long day. And then I had added hurt to it
I lifted the door latch to get inside where it was warm. But I
couldn't lift my legs into the car. I had to shut the door and walk over
to that girl's side.
As I approached her, I thought that she might become scared, thinking
I was going to curse her out. So I put out my hand toward hers,
starting to talk even before I was that close to her.
"I am so sorry," I started. "I want you to know that I am really
sorry," I repeated just in case she did not pick up my first words.
"I want to apologize to you for what I had done. You see, I was driving and not thinking what I was going.
I saw you but I did not see you. I saw those carriages you were
pushing but I guess it just did not register all that precisely in my
head what was going on. Have you ever had that happen to you?"
She looked up at me, wondering what was going on. Was I into some game playing or was I truly sincere?
"You see, I am really a nice guy. I don't enjoy being rude to people.
But I was impolite to you today. I hurt you. And that hurt me. So I
just want you to know that I did not mean what I did. And I ask for your
She broke into the broadest smile, then reached out her hand to shake
mine. A sigh came from her lips, relieved to know that I was not going
to add insult to injury. I really was trying to make things right, she
"Yes, I do know what you are talking about. I have had days like
that, too," she laughed, as one human understanding another. "You know
you really are a nice guy. Thanks a lot. Thanks. Thanks an awful lot."
I turned and walked back to the car, opened the door, climbed inside
and drove away. As I passed by her and the carriages, she lifted a hand
to wave good-bye. I waved back, glad that I had retrieved the nice guy
In doing that, I had made two people happy.
I had also brought back the cheer of reindeer painted on poles all
around me. It was that good feeling that comes especially at
". . .on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:l4).
J. Grant Swank Jr.