Elton John had a song some years ago titled “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” He’s right and this morning I learned the hard way.
While parallel parking this morning near the train station, the woman parked in front of me suddenly started waving her arms and yelling, while pointing at her bumper, “YOU HIT ME!!!” I’ve parallel parked thousands of times and I know when I “hit” someone. I told her I hadn’t bumped her car but she insisted all the louder and began pleading her case to passers-by. After a few minutes of verbal exchange (we both refrained from obscenities) I realized that I was in a no win situation and returned to my car. I also realized that, although I was confident I had not even tapped her car, perhaps I could have been mistaken.
So, I got back out of my car and said, “M’am, I apologize for tapping your car. I didn’t think I had, but I can see you’re upset and I’m sorry.”
She hesitated for a second and did her best to keep on being angry and accusatory and expressing how frustrating this was. I said, “I know, that’s why I’m offering a sincere apology…I’m sorry.”
She blustered for a moment but then realized that she had no recourse but to let go, especially with a few people standing around watching and listening. She never said she accepted my apology but stomped off to get on with her day.
I did not want to apologize. I still don’t think I even tapped her car. However, something told me that it was the only recourse. I found it very difficult to say the words “I’m sorry” because I felt as though I were the one being wrongly accused.
In the end, the situation was diffused and I was able to move on from the scene knowing that I had conducted myself properly. I can only pray that the woman, as she reflects on the experience, will be able to let go of her anger and accept my apology.
I can see myself sharing this story with my class someday when most appropriate. To say, “I’m sorry” is a very humbling experience. Yet, it is a powerful way of re-establishing relationship. I think that the more we can share our own real-life stories and struggles, the better equipped our learners will be to practice Gospel values.
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