It seems everywhere I look there is someone standing on a platform holding a sign or a microphone. They are pleading their case, trying their hardest to win everyone over to their cause. Not just with today’s ripe political environment, but also with parenting advice. It seems every parent (or non-parent) has an opinion about how you should raise your children. When one mom posts a comedic video about her children’s poop and gets called soulless in backlash, I sit back in awe and wonder what has happened? Where’s the village? What happened to we’re all in this together? Where’s the solidarity?
Then I got to thinking, in a world full of judgment, ignorance, and fear, what I want to do conflicts with what I need to do. What I naturally want to do in response is to inform, to judge or to teach.
However, it is not my job to stand at a podium and preach. It is my job to extend kindness, one chance at a time. Having recently been on the receiving end of two back-to-back random acts of kindness, I know this is what we need to do, what we must do, to bring us back together.
Monday morning, I had a doctors’ appointment. Of course, as a stay-at-home mom, I had my two young children with me. As I prepared to the leave the doctors’ office, my toddler didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and play with the toys in the lobby.
After a few minutes of talking with her, I finally chose to pull out the, “on the count of three, come with mommy, or mommy will carry you.” I didn’t want to do this because I had my one-year-old in the stroller, and knew how difficult it would be to navigate carrying a screaming toddler while pushing the stroller. Alas, she wouldn’t cooperate, so I took a deep mommy breath and went and scooped her up, then left the office carrying my crying toddler in one arm, pushing the stroller with the other.
As I left the building a woman asked if I’d like help getting them into my car. At first it didn’t register what she was offering. She continued, “I’ve been there, I know this is hard. I can help you get them in the car if you’d like.”
“Wow. Thank you so much for offering. I can manage,” I smiled in reply.
“Any time. I remember those days very well! Good luck to you!” she replied with a smile and a wave goodbye.
While it would have been easy for her to go on about her day, watching and observing my struggle, she stopped and had courage to extend kindness to a mother in need. Alternately she could have judged and told me what she thought I was doing wrong, informed me of all the ways she would have done it, and yet she chose kindness. That olive branch and those kind words were all the encouragement I needed to carry on, to remember we’re all in this together.
This didn’t end there, though. We headed to Aldi next where I pushed the girls in the shopping cart hastily through the aisles as one grabbed for everything on the shelves within reach and the other grabbed items out of the cart and proceeded to toss them on the floor. The cashier saw an opportunity to help a stressed out mother as we neared the checkout. I was unloading the cart as quickly as I could while helplessly watching my one-year-old grab granola bars off the end cap and throw them on the floor.
The cashier, seeing my struggle, opened up another checkout lane and said, “Leave the milk in the bottom of the cart. When you finish unloading, you can keep your cart. I know how hard this is with young kids. I can make this a little bit easier for you today.” (Normally at Aldi, you switch carts when you checkout before bagging your groceries. This is one of the ways they save time and money.) This small act of kindness made me want to cry. It was such a little thing, but she took the time to notice, to help.
As I look at this crazy world we’re living in right now, I know what we need more of is small acts of kindness. It is all too easy to stand back and do nothing, or to fall into the trap of thinking we need to stand on our platform and inform, to judge, to teach.
Yet, what is actually needed, is everyday acts of kindness. No judgment.
Just an olive branch.
A kind word.
An, “I’ve been there. I see your struggle. You’re not alone.”
So the next time you see someone struggling, offer to help, not to advise. Offer a smile or a hand. Give a hug and a “you got this.” Just smile and say, “I remember those days. Good luck to you. How can I help?”
Let us all “Have courage, and be kind.”
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a thought about today’s post in the comments.
If you’d like to watch the funny poop video I mentioned in the first paragraph, you can check it out here.
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Copyright © 2017 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.