Ignorance vs. Grace: How Do We Deal with People Who Disappoint?

Ignorance vs. Grace: How Do We Deal with People Who Disappoint?

I have Parkinson’s disease, but unless you have a good eye and a good listening ear, most days you won’t notice. On most days, my symptoms are internal. Occasionally, such as when I have forgotten to take my medications, I will have breakthrough tremors. And when my deep brain stimulation needs adjusting, I may present other external symptoms. Unless you know I have Parkinson’s, you may not understand the significance of these symptoms.

To some people, it doesn’t matter what I have.

Two nights ago, I broke my little toe. It always amazes me how much pain can be associated with something so small, such as a tiny splinter in your finger or a grain of sand in your eye. Careless words spoken in ignorance are painful, too. We’ve all said them (at least in our head) and heard them spoken to us at some point in our lives.

Yesterday, I went to Costco to pick up my prescription from the pharmacy.

I wasn’t quite “on,” having run out of one of my prescriptions the previous day. I walked to the back of the store, paid for my medication, then headed to the exit. As I was walking toward the door (not very fast, given the pain in my foot), I heard a woman’s voice behind me comment rather loudly, “If this woman would ever get out of the way, we might actually get out the door.” 

I wasn’t trying to go slow. I wasn’t trying to be an annoyance in her day. However, between dealing with my “on time” turning into an “off time” and my foot throbbing, I wasn’t capable of hurrying. 

It wasn’t until I had gone through the door — not at a snail’s pace, but not feeling as though I was in a race — that the guy who was with the snooty woman decided to be snooty, as well.

“People like that shouldn’t be in places like this,” he said. “They just take up space and make it miserable for the rest of us who have things to do.”


After gaining his coveted lead to get to his car, he glanced back at me and shook his head. He also continued his rant so that I could hear him. 

Shaking the head expresses shame. It represents disappointment and failure. At that moment, I felt it all.

I’ve made ignorant remarks. I’ve even shaken my head at someone for not measuring up to my standards.

Shame on me. 

We all need a refresher course in grace, a reminder that things are not always what they seem. Sometimes, we can’t see the underlying condition that causes the person in front of us in the checkout line to go so slower than we would like. Sometimes, we can’t see what is keeping them back from being able to run through the exit at Costco: a broken toe, Parkinson’s disease, a splinter.

Grace has been extended to us at times so that we can, in turn, extend it to others, and I would rather hand out grace than ignorance anytime.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.
Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.

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  1. Lucia says:

    Sherri, your writing is wonderful, and I always appreciate the insight you offer to all of us. My husband was diagnosed a few years ago, so your perspective helps me understand his experiences more. Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. Sharon Whitehead-van Loben Sels says:

    WOW! It is at times like these I wish these people could see themselves in a mirror. They are examples of ignorance and their indifference to others needs to be highlighted in an ethics class. I understand how you felt, but the shame goes to them. With your permission, I would like to copy and paste this story on my Facebook page. Hang in there, hold your head high, and know you are a valuable person.

  3. Linda Garren says:

    Sherri,you are such a talented and committed writer and Christian. I get so much out of your writings and also out of your character and insights. The situation you described in today’s writing speaks to one of the most hurtful things that can happen to us. A simple way to explain why we are going slowly is to smile at them and gently apologize and tell them you have Parkinson’s. That’s all that has to be said, and every time I do it, the person says, “That’s okay,” and it’s obvious they are sorry (and perhaps a little embarrassed) for their impatience. It may also help them in the future in similar situations to (hopefully) be a little more patient.

    May God bless you and keep you, and we know that His face is shining upon you and that He is gracious unto you, His precious child.

    I’ve found that every time I feel I’m going too slowly for someone–especially on the phone when I have to apologize and ask the person I’m speaking with to bear with me as I write down what they are saying because I

  4. Ha,ha! Please bear with me, as I have Parkinson’s and get a little confused at times! The last sentence in the above post was a draft I started for the post before I stepped away from my laptop briefly and then forgot I had written it until after I saved the newly written message and couldn’t delete it. The situation applies, though, as so many times it is on the phone that I need to let the person know to speak a little more slowly so I can catch and process what they are saying better (or be patient while I write down what they are saying) because of Parkinson’s. In that case, I often cannot read what I wrote down, though, because I feel under pressure to write the notes quickly, which becomes a disaster when I try to read the chicken scratched words…

  5. Jeanette Hoffman says:

    I am still slow to err on the side of grace, although I need it so much. Thank you, Sherri, for the reminder.

  6. NEAL WHITE says:

    Sherri, you are wonderfully gracious! I on the other hand can lack tact with the ignorant type of people that make the uncalled for comments that were directed at you. I have been known to loudly and publicly call them out and inform about PD and how karma will get them someday. Peace be with you.

  7. Sophie Rys says:

    I not only share: I FEEL your feelings.
    But you are strong-er. Thank you for speaking (up) for so many of us.

  8. Heather says:

    This article hit home. I recently experienced something similar and while I wasn’t extended grace- it reminded me that I can do that I can still do that for others.

  9. I work at a candy store, and one day a man came to the counter with his candy moving very slowly. He asked me to help him get his change out of his coin purse, which I did. It took a little longer to complete his purchase, but not that much longer, but a line started to form behind him. He turned and told the people in line, ” I am sorry, but I have Parkinsons, and I move rather slowly.”
    I couldn’t believe how kind and helpful everyone in the line became,once they knew his story. One man even told him, ” ” Hang in there Buddy. They’re going to find a cure for this someday. Just hang in there.”
    People really can be gracious. It made my day!

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