I remember being livid at my daughter, when she realized she had forgotten her ballet shoes as I dropped her off at her recital. I had apologized later, but in the heat of the moment, I had lashed out, exhausted and wondering whether I could be back in time. As I brought these thoughts and emotions to God, I realized that both the caregiver and the person receiving care need God’s grace and mercy. Here is what I’ve been learned.
Several months ago, my husband and I were at the airport, going through security. As I was waiting for them to clear my wheelchair, an elderly gentleman shuffled through the screener, immediately setting off the alarm. The TSA agent asked if he had anything in his pockets.
The older man slid his hands into his front pockets and pulled out an antique engraved pocketknife. “Oh, I forgot I had this. I always put it in my jeans.” He handed it to the TSA agent asked, “Will you give me my pocketknife back after I walk through? Or can you hold it here till I get back from our trip? It’s really important to me.” His voice was pleading.
The agent looked understanding and offered, “You can’t take it through here and we can’t keep it for you. But at the front of the airport, they will ship articles like this for a fee. You’ll have to go back to take care of this and then come through security again.”
The man’s face fell. He was too frail to do all that on his own. He locked eyes with a younger man who had gone through security before him. The older man said, “Son, I’m so sorry to trouble you, but can we get this mailed back to me. I don’t want to lose this knife.”
The younger man stepped forward. “Oh, Dad. Really? You are such a screwup! Whenever we do something, it’s always like this. We’re going to be late for our flight and I can’t deal with your idiot knife.”
“I’m so sorry, son. I know I’ve messed up again, but you remember when I got the knife. I just forgot to take it out of my pocket. I don’t fly a lot. Please help me.”
The son glared at him and said sharply “Dad! You’re making a scene here. I don’t want to talk about this right now in front of everyone. You always make things so difficult and that’s why I didn’t want to travel with you. Just go back through the stupid screener and I’ll figure it out.”
I turned away. I couldn’t watch this anymore. I was crying when I saw Joel headed towards me, bringing my wheelchair. As soon as I sat down, he knelt and asked, “Are you okay? What happened?”
I tried to explain because I felt so foolish crying over this incident between strangers. I had a strong response, but I could barely articulate why. Finally, I said, “When you are dependent on other people, you feel like you have to be perfect. So when you make a mistake that results in extra work for someone else, you feel like even more of a burden. What that son said is what I assume people are thinking.”