Last weekend, on the way to a birthday party, someone slammed into the back of our car on the freeway.
My husband was driving, and our car had been completely stopped in traffic when we were solidly hit by the guy behind us. Then another car hit him. The very loud double crash was quickly followed by the interrogation from the kids in the backseat, "WHAT was THAT!?"
"Well, guys, another car just crashed into us."
"What do we do now?" and "What's going to happen?" and "Can we get out and look?"
"NO you cannot get out and look!"
We crept through the rows of traffic and pulled off the freeway at the next exit, the oldish Honda following behind. I got a glimpse of the driver in the mirror. He was a young man. I wondered how my husband and he would interact.
We found a shady corner of a gas station parking lot where the business end of things would be addressed. After my husband got out, I twisted around in my seat and tried to spy the driver of the Honda. I couldn't quite make sense of what was happening though. He opened his door, but the man stayed seated in the car and I saw his hands flailing wildly near his own face. Was he upset? He didn't look angry. I squinted through the glare on the windows. In fact, his expression looked intensely grieved. And then I understood. The young man was severely handicapped with something that resembled cerebral palsy. The uncoordinated movement of his hands and arms astonished me, not because I hadn't seen someone like that before, but because he was alone in the driver's seat of a car. Not to mention the fact that he'd been driving on the freeway, in the fast lane.
As my husband stood near the open door of the Honda, I knew his heart would go out to him, and I knew, no matter how he felt about the dents on our bumper, he would treat this man with grace. They exchanged insurance information, as the backside of my Volvo now has a perfect imprint of the man's front license plate in it. But I'm sure you can guess that I didn't care much about the dent.
I was most thankful that, firstly, everyone was unharmed. My daughter said, "We can be thankful that wasn't a lot worse." Yes indeed, my little Pollyanna. And secondly, that it was a great opportunity for a teachable moment. My husband displayed a soft heart in a potentially tense situation. He offered unmerited favor to the handicapped man who was so pleadingly apologetic. That, in fact, was why his face looked so grieved, I learned later. He just kept saying how sorry he was. He probably expected anger and condemnation. But that was not what he got, and praise God my kids had front row seats to that show.
Incidentally, the car that hit the Honda did not pull over. He dented the Honda just as badly as he dented us, but the white truck sped off without concern. That was lesson number two for my kids. Some people make bad choices and think only of themselves. Some people are too afraid to do what is right.
Maybe one day, when one of my children is wronged by someone else, they will duplicate my husband's demeanor. They will calmly asses the damage, and offer grace to the offender. Maybe they'll recall what it looks like to use self-control and treat a stranger with respect.
Maybe that "maybe" makes our little accident totally worth it.