Lessons I wouldn't teach again

The days pass quickly and looking back I see how they fell away unoticed.  Dropping off, one by one until they were completely gone.  They disappeared, really, in the smile of the sun, and left me here questioning the length of summer.  I wonder how much of my life moves on without a second thought.

Three weeks it was since we last visited our favored spot with its blue waving pools and twisting water slides.  I had prepared the day before with my careful calculating in the long aisles of the grocery.  A treat decided upon by the chance spotting of sale priced prepackaged lunches. 

The evening before finds me packing the new lunch cooler I had purchased for our fun in the sun. 

We arrive with the promise of a hot day as stale air blows slight to hide the secret of the burning.  We squint hard, walking far over hot pavement that steams silent through the sandals.  I hold the heavy cooler on my shoulder while my son, nearly ten, holds the larger bag of towels.

We hand our passes to the young lady at the gate as we wait our turn to enter.  She slows before scanning.  I puzzle at her pausing.  She hesitates, "Ma'am, you're not allowed to have coolers."

I stop, confused.  All summer I had been bringing our lunches, and today it's not allowed?

"Since when?" I stutter.

"About a month ago."

I'm thinking quickly now.  How are we suppose to eat and drink today?  I could go home, but we had already driven 45 minutes, and the shouts of protest would be deafening.  Thinking, thinking.  I could ask her to make an exception since I didn't know, but that scenario seemed unlikely.  I could return it to the van where the turkey and cheese would marinate for the next 5 hours as we all dehydrated and starved in the blaze.  No. . . no!

The unfairness of it all was building anger, and I walk away silent.

They voice their own confusion, "Are we leaving, Mom?  What are we doing?  Mom!  Mom!"

I walk on, still thinking of what has happened and what was going to happen.  We make it back to the van, and they still haven't been given an answer.  I hear it.  I recognize my own voice echoing inside my head.  "It's not fair.  It's not fair."

Mindlessly, I stuff the cooler into the larger bag and head back into the park.  I feel no guilt or fear of being caught with the forbidden item.  I feel justified.  It wasn't my fault they changed the rules without fair notice.

We hand our passes to the same young lady, and she waves us through.  Crisis averted.

He looks at me then breathing out his relief of not being discovered.  In surprise he whispers, "Mom, I didn't know."

I slow the pace as I feel it slight.  Discomfort.  "Didn't know what?"

"Nothing, Mom."

"Didn't know what?" I press.

"I didn't know. . . you could be so. . . sneaky."

Ah!  I'm trapped after all!  And there it is above me, the gaping hole I have fallen into.  The real crisis is the one I am facing, and how in the world am I going to climb out of this one?  I mutter something lame about how they should have sent an email to all the pass holders, and move on.

But my mind, it stays there in that spot, that very spot where I influenced their character.

Hours later when I go to eat my lunch, what I really try to swallow is the shame.  Regret lodges in my throat and chokes my words.  Words that should have been used to teach and guide.  Don't they say that actions speak louder than words?

I think it all through again.  What could I have done differently?  I know now that the right choice would have been thoroughly inconvenient, but at least it would have been right.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24


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