Two golf carts…two very different experiences.

(For my EGM)

Spending time with my darling daughter is like getting my cup filled up over and over when it has been significantly hard to find a drink for weeks. 

One of our favorite activities together is to go to local craft fairs. We love the creative endeavors, finding so many ideas for her endlessly crafty brain and for me, just absorbing every word she says. We talk, shop, laugh, see things that catch our eyes or give meaning to us both. We notice, connect and sometimes are moved deeply just in our wanderings. 

It is a daunting and humbling thing to be a mama of one who is on the cusp of spreading her own wings… she is closer to adulthood than she isn’t, she is becoming so much of her own and it is all too easy to wonder if I have done enough, taught her enough, parented well enough or many other “have I enough‘s.” 

I have done so much of my work over the course of her life, both intentionally and unintentionally. When you’re a therapist it’s always a good practice to continue to stay in touch with a therapist of your own. More often, there are conversations about parenting wrapped up in conversations about how I provide therapy, my fears and growth; the regular ebb and flow of doing my emotional and spiritual work. But even with the knowledge that I have done and will continue to do my own work as she grows, it is still alarmingly easy to fall back into those, “ I wonders.”

I’m completely amazed that my girl’s love language is quality time with me. I am beyond blessed in the relationship I have with her, but today I am simply humbled in the fact that who she is becoming is more and more like Jesus.

Upon arriving at the craft show, she rolled down her window and asked where the handicapped accessible parking lot was. We were instructed to go a different direction than the designated lot because it was full. She deftly drove and parked which by itself is still unbelievable to me. I swear she’s a three-year-old behind the wheel of a car. 

As always, she came around the side of the car to hold my hand while we walk. I don’t always need that, but I’ll tell you it’s the most comforting thing, her holding my hand; especially when the ground is uneven, there is changing terrain or pavement. She regularly tells me that she WANTS to hold my hand; it’s not a necessity but at this point in my life, I actually believe her. 

We walk, my hand tucked through her elbow and my heart is light. I’m comfortable in my own skin, which she IS watching. We are giggling a bit and I can sense a motorized vehicle behind me, slowing down. I look to my left and assume that a nice staff member has seen us and is going to offer us a ride to the front of the craft show in his golf cart. Instead, a gentleman in a STAFF shirt rather gruffly leans over to us and says “Ladies, that is not where customers are supposed to park. I can see you’re kind of slow so it’s OK, but normally you need to park in a different area.” 

I blink, my heart racing. He had just summed up my identity in a snap judgement. He didn’t say “I can see you walking slow,” but that I WAS SLOW. …my brain had often filled in the rest- that slow was bad, that I WAS BAD. Years of experience, disdainful looks, pity and assumptions had wrongly confirmed it. That same feeling coursed through my muscles, making them all fire.

I can feel my daughter’s body also tense beside me… and before I can respond, she is the one saying, “when we pulled in, we asked the parking attendant where to park and she directed us over here because the handicapped lot was full.” Defending our parking spot AND her mama.  

“We’ll, I don’t know about that. I mean, I would beat you in a race but next time park in the other spot.” He drove off and I stood there holding onto her, dumbfounded. 

In my lifetime I have often been confronted with people’s ignorance and lack of awareness but it really never gets easier. Your skin gets harder, you learn some quick comebacks, but the affects still hurt every time.  This particular time completely caught me off guard. 

Before we go one step further, I have heard so many times, “who cares what he thinks,” and it is right- who DOES care?

WE ALL DO. We ALL CARE more about the insults and criticism than we’re able to accept affirmation and love. If we’re honest…

Emotional work does pay off. I took a few deep breaths, was as kind to my reacting muscles as I could possibly be and attempted to find pity for golf-cart man.

Daughter handled her frustration and own anxiety by reassuring me. “We can leave if you want.” She whispered, hugging me. Trying to swallow around the lump in my throat and a few tears caught in my ducts, I needed another second to breathe.  In my adult self, but not my previously bullied kid self, he had called out my biggest insecurity and insulted me when I least expected it.

I reassured her I would be OK; I just wasn’t quite yet. There would’ve been piles of shame in the past and believe me, that voice was whispering, but a bigger yell was happening inside me, that this was unjust, and so very sad that someone would not only think this way but say it out loud to another person in the year 2022. 

I hugged her and reminded her it wasn’t her job to take care of me, but thank you. It meant the world, her love. I didn’t even reprimand her when she ever-so-subtly shook her middle finger at his back.

“Oh Kevin, thank you so much for all the help, you are so kind.” We were collecting ourselves and heard “golf-cart man” being praised by another customer. A bit of insult to injury.

We walked on and had a really good time looking in the craft show. Rich fall colors, scents from candles and food trucks, eye-catching artwork and sparkling jewelry.  Though we were initially subdued, we began to shake the interaction off and return to “us.”  Conversation included processing how “golf-cart man” and his comments felt for both of us, how others might feel and what would lead someone to say something so blatant and rude. We talked about her first few days of school, her favorite social media accounts and her upcoming year.  We vacillated between the sad, mad, silly and fun. And a few swear words. 

We bought sweet treasures for friends, a few keepsakes of our own and gorged ourselves on iced tea and strawberry shortcake mini donuts from a fantastic food truck. I loved listening to her dreaming her dreams, future plans, the inspiration she found for crafts she wanted to make and how God holds her future in his hands. I cherished her hold on my arm and every once in a while whispering, “I’m sorry he was such a jerk, Mama.“

We left and before I knew it, she was again rolling her window down and trying to explain to event organizers what had happened and caring for her mama. The best part was watching her use her voice and standing up for what she believed in. (Passionately calling golf-cart man an asshole.) I was just the lucky recipient of her strength. Even though this man’s words hurt us both, we hurt for others who he might speak to in the same way and honestly, we were just plain pissed off. 

But I also experienced the beauty and the pride of my daughter’s awareness, her choices to use her voice, her heart and knowing that SHE changes the world for good. She loves like Jesus; she has a heart like Jesus and I am in awe of her trust – in both herself and her Savior.

I don’t know that I will ever feel confident that I have done right by her completely. Honesty again? Every parent this side of heaven wonders, I think. But today in the middle of some glaring ignorance I know that I am enough, I have enough and God is more than enough to take care of all of HER needs as well. Amazing how a craft show can give you things so good (and some hard) that has nothing to with crafts.

As the day ended, we came across a vendor who created lovely jewelry as part of a fundraiser for people in Haiti. Ella bought a Haitian coin with the words “Grace Wins “and me, a bracelet with the words ‘rise.”

Messages and reminders for today and those to come.  

Six months AFTER that day with Kevin, (golf cart man) I still think about that event sometimes….

I attend countless events for our kids and my brain is ultra-aware of people around me.

I have become accustomed to looks or experiences when I must advocate or explain my disability to others to get the help I need. I also am surrounded by lots of friends, family and our “swim family,” (the other parents we sit and cheer with, week after week, sport after sport,) who are spot on: reaching for my hand, helping me down the steps, bleachers, or many other situations. I am profoundly grateful.

As often as there is someone who is hurtful or unaware, there are many more in my corner….

Last Thursday was one of those days….

My love and I traveled about an hour to our son’s away baseball game, as usual. It had been a long week, my muscles still a bit off following lots of temperature changes, long days with clients (sitting too much) and many days in a row of events for the kids. No complaints, just this season we are in.

My husband parked the car and we could not even really see the baseball field clearly. It was and felt so far away, especially with my current state of mobility.

I could feel my heart begin to race, thinking about walking out that far. Still, there wasn’t really another option. I got out of the car, begin to pull my coat on as the chill was already in the air.

Just then, a man drove a bit past our parked car in a John Deere Gator. The very fleeting thought was, “oh, man, I wish we could hop a ride!”

Still, I continued pulling myself together to both walk a long way AND sit outside in the cold for a long baseball game.

I looked over again, sensing that the man on the Gator was still there…

“Hi there, would you like a ride? You’ll have to sit in the back…” He looked from me to my husband.

I blinked and my husband quickly answered, “I don’t mind sitting in the back, thank you!” We tried to grab our stuff quickly and though my muscles fired from being on the spot, I climbed up in the seat next to him. He had leather looking skin from years in the sun, a deep gravelly voice and the smell of cigarette smoke clung to him like a cloud. And…his kindness meant the world as he accelerated across the grass, gravel and field toward the immaculate high school baseball diamond.

 I asked his name, (Terry) and he explained that he worked at this particular school taking care of the various sport venues. I praised his efforts, thanked him again and had a lump in my throat as he pulled the Gator to a stop at the ball diamond where my son’s team and the home team were already beginning play. He could not have known how helpful he was, what it meant to me or how grateful I was.

As we sat watching the game in a truly stunning stadium, I felt the very love of God in Terry’s kind gesture. And as the game went on, I could also feel my anxiety building as I thought to getting back to our car. I tried hard to push my worry to the back of my head, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t nag at me as the game wore on.

Suddenly, the game was over and my husband and I again began packing our chairs, gathering our belongings. I was resigned to walking back, made a wise crack to my husband about getting back to the car at midnight to ease my own anxiety.

Another baseball parent we know well came and hugged us, then looked over.

“Stace, I think your chauffeur is here, looking for you.” We followed her eyes and there was Terry, pointing right at me.

My heart pounded for just a second at being cared for and seen. The negative stuff happens often enough that you just don’t expect THIS kind of kindness.

We quickly made our way to Terry and he smiled at me as he revved up the Gator. “Well, I was watching the game and I kind of kept track of you so that I could give you a ride back.” I swear, I could have shed tears…

”My wife has some issues with her knees, so I like to help whenever I can.” He told me as he pulled up by our vehicle. I was still a bit blown away. I thanked him again and in reality, might’ve hugged him if I thought I could get away with it. I didn’t, but instead climbed into our car with a ridiculous amount of gratitude and a sense of God’s timing and presence.

No disrespect to our kids’ team, but Terry and his kindness have been a big topic of discussion throughout the weekend. It was my husband who said, “crazy, huh? Two guys, two golf carts.”

These words hung with my heart, a lot of the weekend…both Kevin AND Terry.

It wasn’t lost on me that Terry’s giving attitude changed the sting of Kevin’s behavior as I thought about that event again, many months later…

Terry, if you happen to come across this, thank you for showing me Jesus in a person, driving a Gator. Please don’t stop helping, because it is so important. I loved that ride for a lot of reasons and your ball diamond is STUNNING. Your ball diamond and your heart….

 In a world where we all have the choice to be “Kevin or Terry,” may we all be like Terry…and say a few prayers for the Kevins. We all have that capacity, don’t we?

Thank goodness for grace, mercy and people like my girl and Terry. I am grateful to both.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”  Plato


Psalm 13

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