Thursday, January 12, 2012

But Oh, What A Day!

This week has been a busy one for me and yesterday was no exception. I have been feeling like I am barely treading water and only keeping my head out of the water just enough to breathe. Between the power outages and trying to get on top of school and just everyday living, the balance has somehow been thrown off.
It's not that yesterday started out any different than others this week. Getting up and starting school later than planned is a poor way to begin the day though, especially skipping time with Him that I so desperately needed.
So, even though it was busy, I made it through the morning (on my own) and even enjoyed a nice lunch at a new restaurant in town with a friend. It was after this that the day actually started turning what seemed to look awful 'bad.'
Here in Uganda, the city charges vehicles taxes for parking in the form of little parking tickets that you are required to purchase and give to designated parking attendants each time you park on the street (each parking attendant is assigned to a separate part of the street/block). As we readied to leave the restaurant, the parking attendant approached the window and demanded that I give him two tickets because I was parked so long.
Well, that wouldn't "sound" unusual and really it is not. But I had not been parked but for about an hour and a half at the most. One ticket is good for up to two hours. My sense of 'fairness and justice' rose up quickly within.
Now it is also not unusual for parking attendants to attempt to scam us mzungus (white people) ... they routinely sell you tickets that someone else already paid for instead of giving you new/unused tickets ... or they may demand more tickets than you owe ... or they may tell you that the charge is 2,000 shillings for a strip of tickets when it is only 1,000 shillings, etc.
Normally when I am approached with someone who is attempting to scam me, I call them on it and they end up smiling and let down quickly. I pay the correct amount and I drive off happy. No big deal. But this time was different for some reason. The attendant didn't back down quickly and when I discovered he had written an incorrect time of arrival on my tax invoice, that made me much more irritated with the man. This was more than a simple 'verbal' scam and I was much more indignant with him. Even with his incorrect time of arrival, the total time still did not add up to more than two hours either. I was suddenly determined to get this fellow's name and report him to the head office of city parking.
What ensued was really a rather childish exchange of me trying to write down his correct name and employee number from his paperwork and he trying to make it look like I had stolen his paperwork, throwing it inside my van several times, the end result of which was me finally driving off with the paperwork left in the street for him to hopefully retrieve once I had gone. I even left him with two tickets, of all things!
Now if I look at this event as purely what is right and wrong, I might think that I was only doing what was right, and I suppose I might be justified. I did end up going home and writing out a letter of complaint with all the facts of the event and taking it to the office later that afternoon. But the letter was more in protection of myself (to hopefully avoid some high taxation on our vehicle as a result of whatever concocted story the parking attendant may report about me).
But this was only the beginning of my afternoon yesterday ... at this point, I had not admitted to myself that I was in no way reacting in a way that was honoring God. I went home and had some more things to do, but decided I needed to go buy a couple things at the supermarket first before I got to work on them. Well, I was in a hurry and obviously wasn't paying close enough attention. I turned onto a street near the supermarket and as I rounded the corner, I saw there were not many spots open to park. So I picked the closest one, just past a small parked car. As I whipped into the spot, I suddenly heard a horrible crunching sound that I have only heard when a car is being wrecked ... oh, no!!! It was me, just clipping the front right corner of that parked car, with the side of the van! I was trying to avoid parallel parking and also wasn't being careful!!! Ugh!!!
Now what ensued next could be have become a horrible picture very quickly, one's worst nightmare. In Uganda, crowds are riled up quickly. Sides are taken, especially if you have white skin and the offended party is dark-skinned. Despite any of the facts, the white-skinned person is often and most immediately at fault. In this instance, I was 'clearly' at fault ... oh, my ...
To me, instead what occurred is no short of a miracle. It demonstrates God's goodness and tender-hearted grace toward me. The owner of the car was an Indian (from the country of India, not like an American Indian) and he was the least bit upset. He didn't even take my contact information or write down the license plate of the van! And to top that off, he told Bob two times that he was so sorry!!!
In short, I called Bob while he called his mechanic. Bob arrived just before the mechanic and they agreed to a price to fix the car back to its original shape. Bob paid the mechanic who was to order the parts and would pick up the man's car tomorrow to fix it for him. And that was the end of it ... we drove off shortly thereafter!!!
The van has scrapes on the side of it now but no major problems, reminders of my carelessness ... reminders of my PRIDE (ouch)!!!
Now back to the scene of the earlier afternoon. God used this second scene to humble me and boy, did I need it!!! The parking attendant may have been dishonest but he is just trying to make a living. Life is hard here, especially for the average Ugandan. Prices continue to rise on food and fuel. In just over 18 months of living here, some things have doubled in price while others are "only" 30% more in price on just about everything. Yet the wages have remained about the same for everyone. I know it's hard everywhere and I'm not 'excusing' his sins. I am merely recognizing that I definitely gave this man absolutely 'no' grace. And I really was not about to even consider doing so ... all over some stupid little parking ticket that would have only cost me probably 15 cents or some ridiculously low amount!!!
So I think you can see I "needed" some humbling yesterday. I am just so grateful that He humbled me with His tender heart that took 'it easy on me.' I cannot imagine living without our God and His incredible grace and love. But somehow I had forgotten just how much He has given me and couldn't even seem to offer a glimpse of it to those around me. May I not forget yesterday and the lessons learned, but most of all, may I remember to offer grace freely to those around me. May my witness to others show Him at all times, whether I am being treated fairly or poorly ...