The day had been rough emotionally. I’d already spent hours suppressing tears (with marginal levels of success) and my emotional state was precarious at best. Lance, Miles, Grace and I were walking through the Exhibit Hall at the Weber County Fair when I paused to examine a plant displayed on a table. “Look,” I showed Lance, “there is a pineapple growing on it.”
Mid-sentence a zealous woman wearing a green volunteer vest darted up and, interrupting us, said, “Please don’t touch the exhibits. People have worked really hard to grow these.”
I was blindsided. I had not touched the plant. I hadn’t really even come close to touching it. I stammered a lame “But I wasn’t touching it” and backed away from the plant while she, the vigilant volunteer, returned to her seat.
Flabbergasted, dumbfounded, and a bit embarrassed, I also allowed myself to feel a bit angry. Who was she—the self-righteous little whippersnapper—to judge me so unjustly?
Complaining about her to Lance fed my anger and, as I walked around the tables looking at sweets, the anger grew bitter. Her audacity chaffed and my attitude became raw.
We rounded a corner, approaching the plant display from another angle. Miles saw a plant that amazed him and beckoned me, “Come look!” In a voice loud enough for the volunteer (as well as anyone else who was anywhere close) to hear, I said caustically “Don’t touch the plant! Someone worked hard to grow that!! In fact, don’t even get near it. BACK AWAY!”
“That was mean, Mom,” Miles said. He was right. I had been mean. Very petty. Very shallow. And very mean.
As we walked the perimeter of the building, looking at the displayed quilts, I tried to justify my actions—she was out of line, I had been unjustly judged, anyone who knew the situation would understand—and failed. I had crossed the line.
My conscience started to beat up on me and I knew the plummeting would continue until I apologized. Figuring that my life would be much easier in the long run if I just “bit the bullet”, so to speak, and apologized there than if I had to try to track the volunteer down after the fair (I could just see myself making phone call after phone call trying to find contact information for a person whose name I did not know and whose features I was trying to forget…), I walked up to her and said “I am sorry for the way I acted. I should not have reacted that way.”
My voice was monotone—at that point I could not conjure warmth—but I had said it. Apology given. Conscience appeased. Done….almost.
Hoping to mitigate the damage caused by my bad example, I said to Grace and Miles “I want you to know that I apologized to that woman.”
“I knew you would,” responded Grace.
Oh my lands. OH MY LANDS!
Gratitude swept away all the lingering ugliness of the experience. I am SO grateful for a prickling conscience that forced me to do what I did not want to.
“I knew you would.”