Yesterday I arrived at Our Fine School a little early, a bag of fresh library books in the seat beside me. I parked in my usual spot at the back of the school, forgoing as always the pick-up line out front, and rolled down the windows. It was a beautiful day, 75 degrees with a nice breeze, and I had twenty minutes to read. Bliss.
Until the SUV pulled into the spot next to me. For reasons I couldn't fathom, the driver left her engine running, filling the air with exhaust. The day wasn't hot enough to justify sitting in an air conditioned car, but apparently that was what the woman in the car next to me intended to do for the next twenty minutes.
Now, I'm not a confrontational person as a rule, but I can't tell you how tempted I was to get out of my car, go around to the driver's side of the SUV, tap on the window, and make an impassioned plea for the environment. I would bemoan our children's futures, which are already looking dim and will only grow dimmer as the carbon count rises. I heard myself speaking with righteous indignation, with anger, with only the tiniest bit of impulse control. I thought about reaching into my neighbor's car and shaking her by the shoulders, yelling, "For the love of all that's good and true, turn off your engine!"
Instead, I said a prayer.
I prayed to Jesus to help me love my neighbor. I prayed that He might be so kind as to give my neighbor a clue, and maybe I modified the word "clue" with an angry-ish adjective. I prayed that I might be a touch less judgmental, and I prayed that all peoples of the earth would come together before we totally destroyed the environment, and stop running our engines just to keep the air conditioner running. I prayed to get over myself.
And a minute later, my neighbor turned off her engine. She didn't get out of her car; in fact, she was still in her car ten minutes later when I got out of mine to go pick up Will.
Now of course we can't say for sure what made that woman decide to turn off her car. Maybe it had finally gotten cool enough for her. Maybe she was even a little bit cold. Maybe she'd been on the phone when she pulled into the parking spot and hadn't even realized the car was still running until she hung up. "Oh, my goodness!" she might have exclaimed to herself. "I can't believe I've been harming the environment for the last five minutes!"
Of course I think Jesus turned off her engine. I don't know how He did it, but I'm pretty sure He did, and after He did it the exhaust cleared and I was free to love my neighbor, and I carried that love with me out into the world for the rest of the day.
I'm a writer and a stay-at-home mom who keeps meaning to mop the floors because I think it would make me happy if I did. I love books and music and writing, spend entirely too much time in the dentist's chair (I bet I have more crowns than you do), and used to think I was sort of bohemian, but now I wonder. No tattoos. Minivan. That story.