I was in a hurry as I drove into the shopping centre car park. It was one of those hot summer days that seem to get hotter as the preparations for the holiday season kick into overdrive. The car park was crowded. Anxious drivers repeated their loops in search of that elusive parking space.
The late-afternoon heat was compounded by the exhaust fumes from circling cars, the heat radiating from the super-heated bitumen and the glare reflected from windscreens. Shoppers scuttled from their cars to the relief offered by the airconditioned climate of the shopping centre itself.
It was an afternoon to challenge the Christmas cheer in the most festive of shoppers.
The Trolley Pusher
In my peripheral vision, I glimpsed a young girl pushing a long line of shopping trolleys toward the supermarket entrance. There was just enough space between her and a line of parked cars to swing around to where I could see an empty space. I pulled and parked.
The girl glared straight at me as I opened the car door, and she had a hurt look on her face. “When are you going to learn to slow down and drive with some sense?” she said. “This is a car park, not a racetrack!”
She turned after a sad glance downward at the bitumen and disappeared down the line of cars.
I hurried inside to a chemist shop and made my purchase, but deep inside I felt troubled. The Christmas cheer had disappeared from my heart. I couldn't erase that girl's look. I asked myself, What have I done?
What I had done was to drive thoughtlessly, carelessly, bringing pain to a young person at what should have been the most cheerful season of the year. I saw her again when I returned to my car, but this time she didn't bother scolding me.
She was tugging her load of carts. I could tell she was sweating and tired, and she probably wanted to go home after a long day. And I had added hurt to it all!
I walked toward her. Thinking she might be afraid, I put out my hand and started talking. “I'm so sorry. I want to apologise for what I did before. I saw you—but I didn't see you. Have you ever had that happen to you?”
She looked up at me, as if wondering what was going on.
“You see, I really am a nice guy,” I said. “I don't enjoy being rude to people, but I was impolite to you today. I hurt you, and that hurt me. I want to ask your forgiveness.”
She broke into the broadest smile, then reached out her hand. “Yes, I do know what you're talking about. I've had days like that, too.” She laughed. “You know, you really are a nice guy. Thanks a lot.”
I turned and walked back to the car. She waved as I passed, and I waved back. That good feeling that comes especially at Christmas time had returned. I had gained a new understanding that day of the words “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”*