Who Stole My Pina Colada? A Lesson in Grace

This morning I woke up all geared up for a family vacation to Mexico. As we packed into the minivan at 4am, I sat excitedly dreaming of my pina colada later that day by the pool. We bared the Wisconsin cold in our shorts, eager for the warm sun and fun ahead. So imagine my surprise when the lady at the counter said the words no traveler ever wants to hear, “you can’t get on that plane.” Those words knocked the pina colada right from my daydreams!

I had made a huge mistake…a colossal mistake…a mistake that would cost my entire family. I had ordered the wrong type of passport. I had overlooked one detail, which would cost us our trip. I ordered a passport card for Kennedy and Chase and failed to notice that they could only be used for land or sea travel.

As the conversations continued, I wanted to sink into the floor. My heart was racing…was this really happening? My ears echoed with my husband’s voice, “maybe we will have to forget Mexico…. we could go somewhere else?”

I looked at the older berries and the look of disappointment filled me with dispair. Avery asked, “what about the dolphin swim?”

My huband replied, “screw the dolphins.”

I waited for it… I pinched my eyes waiting. I took a deep breath and held it in waiting…

But it never came?!

Where was the yelling? Where were the nasty remarks? No one said one thing negative to me! I had ruined our family vacation and no one was taking it out on me!

Instead, throughout the day, I was continually given grace.

Grace was present in so many people:

1. Ticket Counter Ladies: They didn’t yell. They didn’t charge us any penalties for my stupidity. Instead, they were pleasant and helpful. They changed us to a flight for tomorrow. It took them at least 30 minutes of their day and yet they chatted with us pleasantly. They informed us of the option to try to drive two hours to Chicago and plead for an appointment to get a last minute passport. At the end one lady even said, “See you tomorrow!”

Our journey wasn’t done. What would we do? Would we be lucky enough to get a passport?

As we headed home, we realized that to get Chase a passport would be a process. Last time we needed his mother present and several of her documents. I took a deep breath and texted her for help.

2. Bio Mom showed me grace! She said sure. She was friendly and helpful. She took time out of her morning (I’m sure she had better things to do at 8am) to come to our house, fill out forms, and take them to a notary. She went to three locations to get the documents notarized so that Chase had a chance at a new passport. I wasted her time and yet later that day she was so graceful that Chase remarked, “seems like you and my mom are getting along better these days.”

Meanwhile the documents were getting notarized, I rushed Kennedy and Chase to AAA for new passport photos. Then it was several calls to Chicago to see if we could get an appointment. There were none available and things were looking bleak. But we decided we had to try the walk-in option. So we asked Avery to watch Tyler, piled Chase and Kennedy into the car, and headed down to Chicago.

It was a long two hours. I sat pondering what I was going to be able to do to make it up to the kids. I said many prayers to God, asking him to please not punish the kids for my stupid mistake. Over and over, I berated myself for making such a stupid mistake. I expected the passport office to be like the DMV, with people who don’t like their jobs and are short with customer. Instead as we went through the metal detectors, everyone was friendly, commenting on Kennedy’s cuteness.

When we got there, I took a deep breath as we walked to the podium. The lady met us with a smile and listened to our story. I could feel the tears well up in my eyes and prayed they’d bless our family with help. Again we met grace.

3. All the Immigration Employees showed us grace. At the first of three checkpoints, the agent asked many questions and made sure we had all the required documents to pass to the next agent.  After her careful examination, she concluded our circumstance qualified for SAME DAY passport issuance…the tears began to flow. I hadn’t completely ruined our vacation! Next, she sent us to another lady who was empathetic and told us just last week she helped a man who had done the same thing, and said she saved his marriage. I wiped my eyes, sniffling. Chase put his arm around me and said, “It’s okay Sari.” His kindness (and real hug…we are normally just at a back-pat status) made me even more appreciative and emotional.

They lady filled out all our paperwork and told us to return in three hours to retrieve our passports. Then she recommended a place we could eat lunch while we waited.

As we found some lunch, the grace continued to pour in.

4. The Hotel and Excursions showed grace. Our hotel was able to shift our stay. While it will cost us an extra night, we can still go. The dolphin excursion the kids were worried about… I was sure they had a no refund policy. I waited as this last piece had to be sorted…sure it wouldn’t happen unless we repurchased it. Yet again…grace. They happily moved our appointment to Sunday.

As I looked out the window eating lunch at the cafe, thanking God once more, I saw the lady from the passport agency who helped us. She smiled and waved. That smile meant a lot… we are all human and make mistakes. She was able to get past mine, and soon, I was going to be able to forgive myself.

On the way home…more grace. Family, friends, colleagues… people who were willing to make changes in their lives to compensate for my mistake. By the time we were home, 13 hours from the point we were told we couldn’t go to Mexico, we had all the issues resolved. The dogs were taken care of for our change of dates, the flights were booked, and all was sorted.

Most importantly, the kids were happily talking about the trip ahead and laughing off the strife of the day.

I thanked my family for the grace they showed. My brother replied, “I’m sure you would have shown us grace too.”

Would I? Deep down I’m not sure I would have. Would I have remained calm as extra money was being spent, and a whole day was wasted if it wasn’t my mistake?

I hate to admit deep down I probably know the answer.

Tomorrow I will probably get to sip that pina colada because God answered my silent prayer and A LOT of people showed me grace. But today I was given an even more important reality check, and a glass of humbleness and gratitude for those around me (in addition to one much needed glass of wine!)




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2 Responses

  1. Susan


    What an amazing experience and so truly filled with grace, forgiveness and flexibility. What did strike me in reading this is that there are a lot of moving pieces in planning a trip. In reading I reflected on the experiences, events and tours I have planned on countless family trips, as I now have a 16 and 20 year old, and that much of that weight was on my shoulders. It is just how my family has functioned. But then if anything should go wrong in our planned adventure, I took ownership of the error and had a hard time forgiving myself…..showing grace to myself. I work a bit more now to involve my husband and children in making plans and in checking details for a shared responsibility. My daughter set off on a 2 day trip and failed to check dates and times for museum tours and missed a few opportunities, yet at the same time her traveling companion did not help with any of the planning. I felt her pain, and yours, too. As your family ages thete will be greater opportunity for shared responsibility in arranging the “moving pieces”. So glad your trip was all you needed it to be and that you can look back on all of the people that helped to make the magic happen!

    1. Thank you for the heartfelt comment. I enjoy the planning, but you are right that then the responsibility of error also falls on the planner. I like that thought as we move forward in planning future trips. Maybe it is also a lesson that a family trip should be a family “planned” trip…which may also help in checks and balances!

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