Sweet Street, Side Street, What Street…?

Now that the trauma is gone, the thrill remains, and the children have agreed to go trunk or treating again, I can finally share our most memorable Halloween to date. This year, we decided to attend Sweet Street at The Park in Kannapolis, NC. By all accounts, it was an amazing event, sponsored by local churches and small businesses. They had food, games, rides, live Christian music, and the main attraction…Trunk or Treating! The kids and I were very excited. It would be a new experience for all of us! This was a very well attended event. There were people everywhere!

We decided to meet friends at Baker’s Creek park, a couple miles away from the event. We parked our vehicles, and walked Baker’s Creek Greenway to Sweet Street. When we arrived, the kids were excited to start the main event…. Trunk or Treating! As we approached the line, we realized lots of families were so much more excited than we were, that they formed a line, a mile long, eagerly waiting to enter the area of the main event…. Trunk or Treating!

My friends and I decided it was simply not worth it to stand in line and miss all the fun. So, we carried on, ate some food, rode the carousel, listened to live music, and grabbed candy from vendors and churches with table displays. We had a blast! Anyone who’s been around kids will probably be able to relate to what I’m about to say…too much fun is never enough for kids. When the fun was over, they still wanted to experience the main event…Trunk or Treating!

So, as you can probably guess, after looking at their buckets full of promotional materials and plenty else to remind them how much Jesus loves them, I was suckered into standing in that long line. My friends decided not to join us. It was getting dark, and the line was even longer than before. Nevertheless, we persisted. About 45 minutes later, as we continued to stand in line, I knew I would have to take an Uber or Lyft to my car. It was dark. It was also late. Baker’s Creek Park where my car was parked would be closing at 8:30. I had to prepare the kids for the strong possibility that we might have to leave before reaching the area of the main event…Trunk or Treating!

We finally made it after standing in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes. We enjoyed the main event for a fraction of the time we spent in line, but the kids were satisfied.

Fast forward a bit, and we are in our Lyft heading to the car. I knew the main gate to the park would be closed, because my friends who left before I did, told me that someone guiding people to a different exit. But when I arrived, no one was there. And at this point, I’m like, Okay, I’m going to have to basically break into the park. In my mind, by going through an opening on the side of the closed main gate, I was breaking into the park. However, the park was technically open for another 20 minutes. Since I did not take the Greenway back to my vehicle, this was my only way in.

My kids, of course, were terrified. The Lyft driver kindly offered to keep them in the car as I ventured into the park, but I politely declined. As we walk through this pitch-dark area, it looks like we are walking into the forest. It was very dramatic, and I was frankly intimidated by the scene. But I remained calm for the kids’ sake. I decided to call the Kannapolis Police Department. I basically said, ‘Hey, I’m just entered the park through an opening on the side of the closed main gate, because my car is inside and they’re still supposed to be open, but they’re not. I just don’t want any problems, but I need to get to my car.’ I’m sure the words I’m telling you now are those that went through my head, but whether or not it actually came out that way, I have no clue. She asked me what Park I was in, and I told her. Then she said, “Okay, well, I have no idea who is supposed to help you get out, so let me call around.”

Meanwhile, I’m panicking on the inside, but I knew I just needed to get inside my vehicle and figure out the rest from there. A few minutes later, she gets back on the phone, by now the kids and I are safely in the vehicle. She said, “Ma’am, I haven’t forgotten about you, please continue to hold, but I haven’t been able to locate anyone who can help you get out, so just hang tight. Okay.”

My heart sunk, but I’m like, Okay, I need to at least move my car and see where I am, to see if I can find an alternate exit myself. I knew I was getting out one way or another. As soon as I started to move, I saw a white piece of paper flapping from underneath my windshield wiper. I quickly Parked, got out, and grabbed the piece of paper. It was a note. It read: “main gate closed use exit on the side of the tennis court.” Only problem… It was my first time at this park. I was not familiar with it. I had no clue where the tennis court was, and it was very dark. But the note instantly gave me peace. I knew I could continue to circle around until I found my way. Eventually I did. Just as I was pulling into the main road, the 911 operator came back on the phone to tell me again, she was still working on it, but sorry she still could not help me. I thanked her and told her I found an exit. We were both thrilled.

My exit was a side road that I probably would not take absent the reassuring note. I’m sure I would have figured out a way to get out, but it might not have been as easy as taking that side road, and safely getting back on the main road.

So of course, as I do with everything, I had to connect this back to planning for the unexpected. For me, going through a park, having an experience that I’ve never had before, and having other people relying on me to make the right decisions was a lot of pressure. It was terrifying not to know how I would get out. Without the white piece of paper giving me some type of direction, essentially telling me: hey, don’t worry, there’s a way out, just look for the tennis court. I wouldn’t be at peace while trying to find a solution. I might have traveled down a very different path, which may or may not have been safe.

That’s why it’s important to leave advance directives for your loved ones, letting them know what you want them to do if the unexpected happens. Tell them which direction to take if there is a crisis. Otherwise, they will panic, second-guess themselves, and struggle with the “right decision.” If you have an Estate Plan, make sure they fully express your wishes, make sure you select a good driver, and leave a map of your preferred route. Because, you absolutely cannot and should not assume that your loved ones will know where the tennis court is located, or that there’s even an exit on the side of it.

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