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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Mercy, Grace And A Second Chance

April 23rd, 2002

Mercy means we are spared the punishment we deserve. Grace means we receive blessings we don’t deserve. Sometimes these truths are illustrated in a single terrifying moment.

It was 4 PM on the afternoon of April 16th. I had just put my twins down for a nap. Annie and Emma, protesting mildly because it’s in their job description, were smiling when they grabbed their fleece blankets to snuggle in for a snooze.

Pulling the stroller from the back of my truck I looked over my shoulder to see a bizarre and frightening scene unfolding. A white Chevy pickup stopped suddenly at the intersection of Nebraska Street and Elliot, a major arterial street. Other cars, forced to slow and swerve because of the truck, moved to outside lanes during rush hour traffic.

In the middle of this commotion, in the right lane of Elliot Road, stood a crying two-year old boy.

I sprinted toward him but I was three houses away. Thankfully, the man in the white truck scooped him up and carried him to the sidewalk. He had purposely parked his truck at an awkward angle to block the lane in hopes of keeping the boy from being run over.  A lady in a Chevy Blazer stopped and turned on her hazard lights, yelling to me as she got out, “Get that license number!”

About 50 feet away, a 4-door 1980-something Chevy Lumina was stopped in the right hand lane. I memorized the plate number. Two women in their 20’s, occupants of the car in question, were now running toward the boy. One was his mother, the other probably his aunt. The mother took him from the man who had carried him to safety. She began walking back to her car while those who had stopped to help bombarded her with questions and heated commentary.

“I can’t believe what just happened!!! The kid fell out of the car!!! I saw it happen!!! The back door just opened up and he hit the concrete!!!”

“Why the hell wasn’t he in a car seat?! There’s no damn excuse for that! Kids are supposed to be in car seats!”

“Is he bleeding? Is he hurt? He’s gotta get checked out.”

“Has anyone called the cops?”

The mom looked strangely calm. That made me mad. Maybe she was too stunned to be anything but numb. Over my shoulder I saw the boy’s rescuer on the phone with the police. I followed the mom to her car. When I looked inside, my blood boiled. In the back seat, a baby less than eight months old was sitting in an infant seat. The straps were loose and floppy, the seat wasn’t secure and, worst of all, it was facing the front of the car. I’ve seen people take more care in hauling home a gallon of milk from the store. A collision would send that baby bouncing like a ping pong ball. Next to the baby was a three-year old boy, roaming around the backseat like a goat in a pasture. Three kids. One infant seat. No car seats. Now I’m seriously angry.

“Don’t you have car seats???!!!” Given the exponential degree of blatant criminal carelessness I’d just witnessed, I was hoping for a tearful, “No, I’m sorry. I don’t. I can’t afford them.” That was something we could help her with.

“Yeah. I do.”

“You have car seats and you’re not using them???!!! Your kid just fell out of the car!”

“His brother must have opened the door.”

Stupidity is no respecter of gender. Yet had this been a male, my name would have been on a police report for “assault with intent to do severe bodily harm to an idiot.”

“You have to get your boy checked by a doctor immediately. He could be hurt.”

“I think he’s ok.”

“Thinking doesn’t cut it. You need to wait here for the police.” She didn’t think so. She drove away.

After all the pertinent information was passed along to the responding police officer, I walked back to the house. A line from the movie “Parenthood” popped into my head. “You know, Mrs. Buchman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car — hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any #!$%^&# be a father.”

Or a mother.

A two year old boy fell out of a moving car on to a busy street because his mother chose not to protect him. That’s child abuse, plain and simple. By her own admission, she had car seats. She chose not to use them. Thanks to God’s protection and the quick thinking of a man in a white Chevy truck, the little boy wasn’t run over and killed. How sad is it when total strangers demonstrate more love toward your children than you do? We can only pray that this little boy will live a long life in spite of his mother’s neglect.

Sitting in church on a Sunday it’s easy to nod your head in agreement when the pastor quotes from Ephesians 4 and says,”be angry, but don’t sin”. But Sunday is one day out of seven. This is Tuesday and I’m angry. I want this lady found and cited for endangering her kids. For not using car seats. And if possible, a big fat fine for seeming indifferent to the fact that her toddler fell out of her moving car in the middle of rush hour traffic. Then again, when your own son bounces on the street like a tennis ball and you can’t muster a single tear, a citation from the police probably won’t put much of a wrinkle in your day.

Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve. Because she drove away before the police arrived, the mother wasn’t ticketed for not using car seats. She wasn’t warned. She wasn’t fined. She wasn’t arrested. She didn’t get a visit from Child Protective Services. Based on those who witnessed the incident, she deserved all those things.

On a higher level, the mother enjoys another mercy; the mercy of being judged by a perfect God. One might think of mercy and judgment as polar opposites. By human definition, they usually are. We humans aren’t capable of being perfectly angry and perfectly just at the same time. My desire to see the mother given a ticket for her negligence, while justified, also contained a selfish desire to see her punished. While I would punish out of anger, God in His perfection will, in His time, judge from perfect love. While I cared more about the babies in the backseat than I did the mother, God loves the mother and the children equally.

Grace is receiving blessings we don’t deserve. The mother received more than showers of blessings. She received grace like Niagra Falls. Her son is still alive, even though he fell out of her moving car. He didn’t get run over. He didn’t get killed. Her other children didn’t fall out of the car when the door opened. In spite of her profound neglect, this mother received what she doesn’t deserve; a second chance. I wonder what she will do with it?

I’d like to believe that the mother will realize the danger in which she placed her children. I’d like to believe that she’ll jump on this second chance like a duck on a June bug. I’d like to believe that she’ll recognize the mercy and grace God gave to her in that terrifying moment, and that it will be a turning point in her life. But only God knows what she’ll do with her second chance.

Mercy means being spared the punishment we deserve. Grace means receiving blessings we don’t deserve. When grace and mercy meet, God often gives us a second chance. We can embrace it.

Or we can drive away.

“God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:10-12

Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com