Friday, January 14, 2011

traffic nazis and God's touch

I knew she would be waiting for me today.  Just by the snarky comment/question I got last time I was there.

Backing up.  My younger teen is in his final year at the Catholic elementary school he has attended since PreK.  They have this thing about parental involvement, so one of the things that I do is to help in the car rider line a couple of mornings a week - getting the little bundles of joys out of carseats and helping with the backpacks that are bigger than they are.  I enjoy it, and I enjoy visiting with the teachers who are in the section where I help out.  I am there when it is 85 degrees and I have been there when it is 25 degrees, although I don't imagine the half hour or so that I spend there each week is going to amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

I approach from the opposite direction, drive up to the gate and then park on the side.   Then I was told I must cross the car rider line.  That I go the wrong way and then walk into the gate has really bothered the staff-member-in-charge-of-the-car-rider-line, but since I wasn't doing anything technically wrong, she really couldn't say anything.  UNTIL I started crossing the line at point B instead of point A, as she had requested.  In either case a vehicle usually stops for the 2.5 seconds it takes me to cross the line, and that causes her to comment about interfering with the traffic flow or the path that I choose to walk to get to the far end.  Really petty and something I shouldn't have to justify.  The safety of the children is never an issue

I appreciate the school that my child attends, but I have noticed that Catholic schools tend to be really big on Following the Rules.  To the point that common sense, compassion, and reason are often lost.  (Unfortunately, the only alternative around here seems to be the public schools like where I teach that are only a step away from the Wild, Wild West and no rules at all.)

So I knew she would be waiting today.  I prayed at Mass this morning that God would give me the words to say.  I hate verbal confrontations, but after the past several months of being bullied at work, I'm quite tired of that, too.  They double-teamed me today.  But it was OK.  Some words were exchanged.  Something about how as a teacher, I should realize how important it is to Follow The Rules.  (I also realize how important it is to be flexible and go with the flow.)  And why did I think that I didn't need to do the same thing that all the other parents did?  Ummm, that would be because I'm out here unloading their children out of their cars in all kinds of weather.  Well, All The Other Parents Follow The Rules.   It was a pretty short conversation.  You know what, it sounds like All The Other Parents can handle it, I have better things to do on a cold morning, and you really don't want my help.  Oh, sure we do.  They don't.  If they valued the little bit I do, they would be pleasant and say "good morning" instead of looking for petty things to be upset about.  I returned to my car (probably impeding the sacred traffic flow again) and drove away at a moderate rate of speed.

Would it be uncharitable of me to note that these staff members aren't administrators or teachers or classroom personnel?   They are parents who were there so much that they finally gave them a title, some responsibilities, and a pay check.  And would it be wrong to note that most mornings that I am there, I do not see any other parents, and I wasn't really aware that there was a preferred parking procedure for parent volunteers??  And if I mentioned that most mornings the Principal and Assistant are also out there and have never uttered a word to me about where I park, cross, or walk?

So I drove down the street to the church where I sometimes go before school.  It was a better alternative than sitting in the cold car in the school parking lot.  I pray the Liturgy of the Hours with some regularity, and today that is what called to me.   For those who are not familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer generally consists of an introductory Psalm, 2 other Psalms, the Canticle of Zechariah,another Canticle, a short reading from scripture, petitions, and a couple of other elements.

After an encounter such as I had above, my impulse would be to analyze these people, what is wrong with them and their lives to explain their behavior, and make sure that as many people as possible heard my tale of woe (maybe I am doing that here - but none of you know these people).

But that is not what I wanted to be about.  I began to pray....

Lord, open my lips.  --And my mouth will proclaim your praise.   OK - I say that every day - the first words of the LOH, but I'll have to really be conscious of what my mouth proclaims today.

...they challenged me and provoked me....  (Psalm 95)  That's God speaking.  So He knows the feeling.

Psalm 51 is a staple on Fridays.  Give me again the joy of your help...O rescue me, God, my helper, and my tongue shall ring out your goodness....  I'm listening God.

I prayed through the next Psalm and Canticle.  Reassured that God is there seeing the bigger picture.  Faithful.  Merciful.  Caring for us.

Then I hit the scripture reading.  I read the first line and had to stop and marvel at God's sense of humor.  I almost laughed out loud.

Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit....Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.  (Eph 4:29-32)  I am familiar with this passage.  Got part of the first verse as advice in confession once, and I liked it so much, I googled it to find "the rest of the story". 

Could anyone have hand-picked a better reading for my day??

Following came a verse:  Make known to me the path that I must walk.  Apparently it isn't the path of unloading cars before school in the morning.  Not unloading cars will give me time for a half hour or more of prayer twice a week.  Perhaps that is time better spent?

Then came the intentions.  It was as if God just kept thinking of one more thing to tell me.

Christ, Rising Sun, warm us with your rays --and restrain us from every evil impulse.

Keep guard over our thoughts, words, and actions, --and make us pleasing in your sight this day.

Even the Concluding Prayer. conquer the darkness of ignorance....Strengthen within our hearts the faith you have given us; let not temptation ever quench the fire that your love has kindled with us.....

I left that church with so much peace and joy.  I had a great day.  Did I win or lose?  I didn't change anyone's mind.  I didn't prevail.  But I did stand up for myself.   And  I did not let a stupid situation ruin any more of my day.  Draw close to God, and you can't lose!


  1. What a great story! It's hard to let go of wrongs done to us, but with God's help, as you have shown, we can. God indeed has a sense of humor!

  2. Awe, the power of words!This is a great story. My kids all went to Catholic school and I have experienced some of what you are sharing here.

    I agree with Barbara; God indeed has a sense of humor!