May 8, 2010

Parking Woes for the Able Bodied

In the last eight months FUMC, Arlington, TX has set aside two entire Sunday morning worship times to Special Needs Christians—which is all of us in many ways. I remember September 2009 when Tim Caldwell, as our special speaker, told the congregation that the first Sunday he visited us I asked him (as he rolled in his wheelchair through the sanctuary door) “Is it raining?” Because he was absolutely soaking wet as the nearest place to park was about one hundred yards from the sanctuary, Tim got a big kick out of my obviously tongue-in-cheek idiotic question.

It was obviously raining, but I asked Tim about the rain so he would not ask me why our able-bodied church members had parked vehicles in so many of the handicapped parking spaces. I would have told him “it must be visitors,” but one of our best members even confessed to me that he parked “illegally” because he did not want to get wet. I guess I just did not want to face up to the fact that sometimes people with handicapping conditions simply are an inconvenience for a few of our most important citizens—which brings me to Tweed Clark. I am sure Ms. Clark is a very nice person. But she wishes that those pesky people with handicapping conditions would not be such a nuisance to her. There is a reason I want you to see Ms. Clark at her affronted best.

Our talented church member/reporter Susan Schrock wrote a story about Tweed Clark several weeks ago in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And from what I can tell the outcry was so great against Ms. Tweed that Susan (who was merely the messenger) has been in hiding ever since. Here are the opening lines of the article and it fixes our context:

Tweed Clark stopped briefly at the Arlington Municipal Court to pay her daughter's $250 speeding ticket. So, how did Clark end up with a $640 parking violation of her own?
Clark admits that she parked in a yellow-striped space next to a handicap space for a few minutes March 8 but said she never saw a "no parking" sign until after an officer pointed it out to her while writing the ticket.
In Arlington, the fine for blocking access to a handicap parking space — the violation for which Clark was cited — is the same as for illegally parking in a handicap space.
Clark, who is fighting the citation, said she has written and called Mayor Robert Cluck and other city leaders asking them to consider reducing the fine. She also wrote a jeer in the Star-Telegram calling the city "crazy" for how much it charges.
"It's outrageous," Clark said. "I wasn't driving drunk. I wasn't speeding in a school zone"
Clark, who has hired an attorney, said she wants to raise awareness about her costly mistake.
"I felt like the whole city of Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth should hear about it," Clark said of writing to the Star-Telegram. "I have told everybody in the city. I've got such a big mouth” (

We celebrate Special Needs Sunday at FUMC, Arlington on occasion to remind our able bodied church folks that sometimes believers and worshippers with handicapping conditions want to participate in the life of their church. Yet they have difficulty walking a long way. Some are older, some are in wheelchairs, and some are on walkers or canes.

I will freely admit there is no Bible verse about where to park, or about parking at all. Yet as people of faith, whether we are teenagers or adults who can still walk a ways, should we not be sensitive to those who struggle to come to church? I applaud them and ask that we not make it any harder for them than it already is.

As Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).


Susan Schrock said...

Ha ha. I did stop by the church office last week since we've been playing phone tag but you weren't in yet. ;-)

The response to the Tweed Clark article was way greater than I ever imagined it would be. I hope all of the comments from readers (and the sticker shock of Mrs. Clark's fine) will discourage others from even thinking about parking in a handicap parking or striped space in the future.

See you around.

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