restraining my judgments: pandemic version

A few days ago I found myself at a new park, Calabazas, a city park in Cupertino just south of Apple’s famed headquarters.

I had been up since just after 6am with our two rowdy preschool boys. Having already coached them through a short hike at a nature preserve, this was my second stop of the day. My face held the emotional and physical exhaustion from the full day with the littles; my forehead was a knot.

As we explored the park, a small remote controlled vehicle approached, followed by a man. From behind his mask, he appeared to be within a few years of my age. Soon, another man appeared, manning the controls of another dust-spewing vehicle.

Naturally, the boys were fascinated. What 3 or 5 year old kid wouldn’t be?

I had to make sure the boys didn’t get hit; the vehicles were fairly large. As I coached the boys on avoiding them, I also had to explain that they needed to stay in a certain area – an island made up of a large tree and its roots. There was some struggle for them to listen, but for the most part we seemed to be getting along ok, the boys happily watching the small trucks as they sped around, tumbling over rocks, hopping over berms.

There was some mumbling, a sense of discontent that I began to pick up from the two men. As another joined, I could hear a few of the complaints. They were unsure whether to speak directly to me or confront my kids, but internally I realized they felt some claim over this place and that we had unknowingly impinged on a remote controlled ritual.

“Buddy, come on, that’s the only jump in the neighborhood!” one of the drivers said brusquely through his face mask, barely looking my direction. This was the first comment that clearly marked out their position.

“I understand” was my terse response.

Walking down to where the boys were, I let them know it might be a good idea to find a new place to play. It was dusty, loud, and I was feeling the awkwardness of getting in the way of their fun, their afternoon activity – driving little remote controlled cars.

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As I walked out with Silas and Maelin, part of me was still perturbed at the man’s comment. The one jump in the neighborhood? Really? Glancing around, I noticed countless places to drive the little vehicles – and we were there first! For heaven’s sake, it’s virus season and I have three kids to raise, a marriage to maintain, and a full time job.

You’re a grown man driving a remote controlled car, and you can’t let a tired dad soak in the afternoon with his kids without verbally staving him away from your precious racetrack? 

Amidst those thoughts, I tried to imagine their situation. What are their lives like? And what is their experience amidst the pandemic?

Maybe, even though this clearly isn’t the only jump in the neighborhood, it’s the best one. 

Maybe rc cars is the primary – or only way – these guys connect as friends. 

Maybe they have no idea what it’s like to raise kids. 

Maybe they’re fighting depression, anxiety. 

Maybe they’re single.

Maybe.  

I could be totally off. Maybe they’re just jerks. But whatever made that guy want to come take over my spot at the park, they had a high value for driving their little cars.

COVID-19 related challenges also fit squarely into this interaction at Calabazas Park. If those gentlemen do indeed lead single lives, the pressures [and joys] of parenting are simply unknown to them. If my experience is, in fact, entirely outside theirs, no wonder there is confusion.

My faith tells me I’m supposed to bear with other people’s burdens. It’s right there in Galatians chapter six, go look it up. In this case, I found myself the one who needed to assess the needs of the car guys and parent accordingly.

One chapter earlier in Galatians, Paul speaks to how we can sum up God’s call on us with one simple concept: loving others as we love ourselves. Jesus takes it a step further and calls us to love even our enemies. 

Enemy love was the tipping point for me, but my spiritual guides leave me with no excuse, so I yield [even if I’m a bit resistant as I do!].

Drive on, remote controlled car guys.

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