It happened fast. Before I knew it I was yelling at an old man in the parking lot. I don’t make a habit of such behavior.
This was a typical sunny day in mid-winter and we’d just spent the better part of the morning in the library children’s section soaking up good stories. I watched our kids teeter on a wobbly step stool to reach just the right picture book. We were peaceful, light-hearted, happy.
As we stroll to our beat up old truck to head home, I spot a shiny convertible (with the top up) parked beside us. My boys love cars. Immediately our littlest shrieks with delight. I whisper, “… no touching, ok hun?” and notice a man in the front seat.
He stares forward, mumbling to himself. His face is deeply creased with age and anger. Frown lines were everywhere. Immediately, I think of Scrooge. The one played by Jim Carey in the most recent version of the film. I actually do a double-take, he looks that strange.
I always have three children closely crowded around me. Always. It is no different when we are climbing into the truck. So here I am, diligently, oh-so-carefully trying to open the side door to ensure there is no chance the door might slip and nudge this ridiculously fancy vehicle beside us. Then, I hear him…
“DON’T TOUCH MY CAR!”
The old man’s voice oozes with years of anger. I quickly peel around to see our three-year-old with his chubby hand on the shiny car’s gas door. He quickly pulls his hand away and looks at me, wide eyed. I mumble a ‘sorry’ to the growling man and quickly began herding the kids in the truck, my heart racing. I hate confrontation. What happens next, shocks me to the core.
The old man with hate in his face turns to my tiny son and audibly says, “Ass-hole…”.
Now. I am not an explosive person. But this Mom’s blood was boiling. I was in complete disbelief that someone could ever speak to a child in this way. With my whole family watching I turn around, look that man in the face and speak words that come without thought… from somewhere deep within.
“I can’t believe you would speak to a child that way. Sir…” (I’m shaking). Sir… YOU CAN’T DIE WITH THIS CAR, SIR! (I’m yelling, waving my arms). Do you understand that? You can’t die with this car. You can’t die with this car.” (Tears are falling now as I shake my head – people are watching, staring, waiting.)
He refuses to look at me, but I know he hears me. And in that moment I wonder why I hadn’t thought of something else to say – it seems odd that I only repeated the same statement four times. My brow furrows as I wonder where ‘that’ came from.
The kids get buckled up and I sit down, lip quivering. All three of those precious hearts are looking to me for some kind of explanation as to what just happened.
I breathe. “Kids – what that man said to Alex was very mean. He has a lot of anger in his heart and it is not right to speak to children in that way. That is why I spoke to him. Many people think their stuff is more important than others. He is more worried about his fancy car than being kind. That is a really sad thing.” I wanted to say something noble like ‘we should pray for him’ but I couldn’t mutter the words. I was too upset. I was shaken. There was more to this confrontation.
This was Culture in a Car.
Beautiful and shiny on the outside, the car sits – begging to be admired. But inside, the old man is creased with anger and raging with selfishness and bitter hate. That fancy car can’t hide your unhappiness, Sir. It just can’t.
But isn’t this our world?
Stuff has become more important than people. Greed has become a way of life. My car. My money. My possessions. My stuff. DON’T TOUCH MY STUFF. It’s mine. MINE.
And all this, ALL THIS, at the very time my husband and I are repeatedly asking the daring question…
“God, are you asking us to sell our vehicle? Are you asking us to minimize and then give? To give, despite the inconvenience?”
And I hear my own words that sprang up from somewhere beyond me:
“You can’t die with that car, Sir. You can’t die with that car.”
And I think I have my answer.
Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
“Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”