Stoplight Sin

We were headed for the zoo and had just pulled off the exit when the stoplight turned red.

Ugh!!! We. were. so. close!

We had gotten up early, scarfed a quick breakfast of eggs and toast, and had managed to leave right on time with both lambs and gear in tow (say what?!?!). We had dodged the Friday morning traffic and were even beating the GPS ETA by four minutes. Things were going even better than I had planned! Not only were we right on schedule for securing a parking spot in the shade, but we were also in prime position to beat the masses to the Elephant Reserve.

Mama was happy.

But now we were stuck at a fairly long red light in a fairly long line of cars that were all waiting to turn LEFT without a green arrow. Side note: When we get to heaven, I really don’t believe there will be left-hand turns without green arrows; they simply must be a result of the curse!!!

Oh, for goodness gracious! Why now?!?!

We are 0.4 stinkin’ miles away from the fun!!! 

Is anyone in this line an offensive driver?? 

Drive people, drive!

Turn people, turn!!

Get out the way people, get out the way!!!

“Mommy, why is that man standing there with a sign?” 

Wait. What?

We’re stuck at a traffic light behind a fairly long line of cars; we’ve been in the car for almost 45 minutes;  we’re only 0.4 miles from the zoo; and my typically impatient four year-old (wonder what tree that apple fell from?) is asking about a man with a sign?

Wait. What?

Sure enough, a few cars ahead of us, there was a man (standing in the median) with ragged clothes, tousled hair, dirty boots, and a cardboard sign. My heart immediately winced as I strained my eyes to read the Sharpie letters on the homemade sign.

I’m not sure how long I was staring and straining but before I knew it, the cars in front of me were moving and my son was repeating his question.

“Mommy, why is that man standing there with a sign?”

Push the pedal, Jessica. You’re going to the zoo, remember? Big rush, right? Beating the crowds, yes? The elephants, the elephants!!! 

“Umm…well. I couldn’t read his sign, but I think he was asking for money.”

“Well why was he asking for money?”

“Well, I’m not really sure, but probably because he is poor.”

And probably because he’s made poor choices…and possibly because he’s an addict…and maybe because he can’t get work and doesn’t want to work…and possibly because he can’t get his act together…and maybe because he’s trying to take advantage of people like us who are heading to the zoo…

I had a whole slew of internal reasons that were automatically racing to the forefront of my assuming mind–a mind who has never known desperate need or cardboard signs…a mind whose biggest problem on a Friday morning was driving her nice car with her well-dressed, nourished children to the zoo…a mind who was so focused on the two-minute stoplight that it missed the needy soul ahead.

“Well, Mommy. Maybe he is poor because he has given all of his money away to help other people? Maybe that’s why he is poor, Mommy.” 

Tears filled my eyes as I rounded the corner and spotted the entrance to the zoo. I wanted to crawl in a hole…a hole of shame.

Son: 3, Mom: 0

He was patient at the stoplight; he saw the need; and he assumed the best.

Now, do I believe that this man was standing in the median with a cardboard sign because he was generous and gave away all his money? Well, not really…but that’s not the point.

The point is this…

Sometimes, I can be in such a self-focused hurry that not only am I prone to missing the needs right in front of me, but I’m also prone to judging the needs I do see. 

“Caden, you’re right, buddy. Maybe he is poor because he gave it all away.”

At 9:07, we walked into the zoo.

Yes, we were a little later than I had planned and no, we didn’t get the very best spot in the lot. But ya know what? It didn’t really matter anymore.


Because when the Lord stops us in our self-focused tracks and opens our eyes to the needs around us, sometimes our “needs” don’t really seem like “needs.” 

Oh, Lord, may I be a soul who sees more than just my needs and when I see those needs in front of me, may I be a soul who is willing to give it all away, making no assumptions or judgments. 


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