Don’t Judge People For Where They Park

You Don't Know Their Story!

parkHating on the Cheaters Who Park in Handicap Spots

I used to steam internally when I saw a perfectly healthy person park in a handicap spot. “What is WRONG with that person?” I would mumble. “Don’t they understand that they could get fined for parking there?”

Of course, what I really meant didn’t sound as nice, but I usually had kids in the car with me, so I filtered myself.

parkAll of that changed when Pedro had cancer. His weight dropped from a healthy 190 to an emaciated 130. My brother-in-law helped me get a temporary permit to park in handicap-designated spots.

I would hang the placard on my rearview mirror whenever I took Pedro to doctor’s appointments or the pharmacy. But twice, I felt deep shame because I became that healthy-looking person exiting or entering a car alone whilst parked in a handicap spot.

The first time occurred when I had to take Pedro to the emergency room at the hospital. He couldn’t even walk to the door without assistance. The doctors admitted him, and when I had to leave a day later, Pedro remained for further tests.

Because of my harsh internal attitude towards ‘cheaters’ who parked in handicap spots, I cringed when I got in my car. I wondered if people judged me, a perfectly healthy person with the temerity to park in a handicap spot.

The Weight of Guilt

The second time it happened, I said something. I had flown into San Francisco, rented a car and drove to a different hospital to pick Pedro up. This time, witnesses saw me park in the handicap spot, and my guilt compelled me to explain.

“I have to pick my husband up, and he can’t walk,” I said to the group of people walking past my car as I go out. They gave me odd looks and continued on their way—I doubt they even realized what I spoke of.

Ever since then, I have squashed my inner Judgy McJudgerton each time she squawks about the rudeness of healthy people who park in handicap spots. “You don’t know their story,” I remind her. I have learned to smile with compassion rather than scowl with condemnation.

After all, I don’t know the story of why they park where they do.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Appearances can be so deceiving, and it’s worth giving others grace. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I’m always happy to receive grace, therefore I should happily extend grace :).

  • Anita, you are so right and we always could use this reminder to not judge by appearance. Just because one “looks” healthy does not mean they are facing an illness that is unseen. May we continually give grace. Blessings!

  • Karen Sebastian

    I so get that one! I was recently with my Dad and he decided at the last minute to stay. I have felt like yelling at people that looked like they didn’t need the spot. Thanks for sharing this insight for all of us.

    • It’s a tough one, isn’t it? There’s so much of every person’s story that we just don’t know.

  • So true. I used a temporary permit for several months after having a neurological illness. It was pretty obvious I needed it while I was in a wheelchair or using a cane, but when I first started walking on my own, I didn’t look like I had any handicap. But I could barely make it from the car to a shopping cart to help steady myself. My mom had severe heart issues and used a permit as well. Not all disabilities or physical problems are visible. Nevertheless healthy people do “cheat” sometimes, so it’s hard to tell, but I try to err on the side of assuming they have a problem or issue I can’t see.

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Anita, such a good reminder . . . About parking and other things in life. I confess, I got frustrated a few times earlier this year when I was still in my knee brace and recovering from my ACL surgery. I saw someone park in the handicap spot, which forced me to park further away and walk with pain to the store. I knew it was possible that they actually needed that spot. But . . . So did I. And I was selfish in my thoughts.

    I will admit, however, that I have become less judgmental because of how I must have looked the last days I was permitted to park in the handicap spots. No brace, walking with only a slight limp . . . Yes, we never truly know the other person’s story.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Anita. Barbara had to deal with this sort of thing when I could still go out…she’d drop me at the entrance to a store, and then park, using handicap plates…and she did get some hate. No shrinking violet, my wife laid into these individuals and made them wish they had never been born.

    #1 at FMF this week.

  • Tara Ulrich

    Suxh a good reminder for us all

  • But…being Judgy McJudgerton is so much easier! 😀 Great post and applicable for most of us, on either side of the issue!