Those of you who have been following along with this blog for awhile, or who have had discussions with me about grocery shopping with kids will know that I don't always have high opinions of a trip for food while surrounded by large numbers of the elderly. I generally feel like they make a mis-behaving child 100x worse. Most of them appear as though your presence in the store is making their trip a hassle, so no mercy for you/your child, just scorn. Or they give you that look that says: "what is that?!?" while their eyes bore a laser beam of disdain into your child. This is only magnified if your child happens to be having, well, a toddler moment. Few seem to realize that they were themselves young parents (and young children) at one point, and that others showed them grace at that time. (As an aside, I do love to be shopping with a bunch of middle-aged parents, for they seen t0 most often possess a charitable combination of remembrance and compassion, driven by having endured such days in the past while having moved on to other parenting struggles.)
However, every so often a person seems to be divinely sent to a particular place in your life just to speak to you where you're at right then, and today for me that person was an elderly lady in a grocery store. At the end of an already-too-long shopping trip, both kids were acting out. To make matters worse, I'd forgotten a couple of necessary items and had decided that due to scanner malfunctions, it was late enough I needed to get something for "lunch" as well. So, I committed the first parental faux-pas of grocery shopping. The "I don't need a cart because it's only a few items" one--if you've done it you've probably lived to regret it. Anyway, Lydia (my usually calm and well-behaved grocery shopper) wanted to be down and running all over, and was kicking her feet in protest at being held, and during the mayhem Joshua slipped off and began choosing items of interest to him. (If you're thinking candy, pop, junk food, you're on the right track...) When I finally convinced him to come back by me (in none too sweet of a tone) he started to make his way over, but got distracted right in front of an older couple. He was completely blocking their path, and I was sure they were none too pleased by it.
So, I pulled him back to my side and told him "Joshua, you can't just run without looking in a store. Those people are shopping and they're probably in a hurry, but you're standing in front of them and they can't move." I tried to escape with a quick "sorry" and moved on down the aisle. At this point I was truly ready to drop my items, skip the checkout, and leave without the items I'd forgotten, because I was highly stressed and close to tears. It's in those moments that parenting feels truly overwhelming. And that's when it happened.
The poor woman who Joshua had been totally obstructing walked over to where we were now picking out items and in the process totally changed the course of my day. She laid her hand on my shoulder, gave me a smile and said: "We are not in a hurry, you are not in the way. On the contrary, we are just watching, admiring. You (moms) do the hardest, most thankless job every day, and you do it with grace and beauty. Thank you!" I managed a 'thank you' of my own with tears in my eyes and she went on her way. But I was left humbled and grateful. I've never met the woman before, I can't thank her in any other way, so I will share her story. I know many times I am too quick to judge others and I hope I can be more like this woman, giving grace and encouragement at times of need, not just when people seem "deserving." Remember, she'd just witnessed one of my not-so-finest moments of motherhood: raising my voice, feeling out of control, two tantruming/disobeying children, and yet she saw the spirit and not the circumstances. Wow!
I have no idea if this woman knows Jesus, but she became the example of Jesus in the world through her actions today. There is no doubt in my mind that it is this type of behavior we are supposed to illustrate each and every day, speaking and serving the least of these in our daily lives. I have been blessed. May I remember to share this simple, yet meaningful blessing with others as I go throughout my life!
Proverbs 12: 25 'An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.'