To the Lady at the Grocery Store Who Didn’t Judge Me

Dear Lady,

You saw me struggling in the parking lot. In the rain. With frizzy hair and donning a very unattractive outfit, two small kids in tow.

Minutes before I encountered you, I was trying to keep my composure as my 3-year-old’s world fell apart because I told him he couldn’t get a balloon. We don’t always get what we want, right? And although it’s tempting to placate a tantrum by giving in, I stood my ground at the risk of public embarrassment, knowing it was better for his character in the long run, albeit hurtful to my pride in the here and now.

So I was carrying said child (who weighs 40 pounds might I add) on my hip, while he was crying loudly and squirming, as the baby sat in the cart. (This was only shortly after a few strangers complimented my darling, well-behaved kids. My, how the tide turns quickly…) I awkwardly and embarrassingly tried to push the cart to the self-checkout line one-handed. Buying my four items seemed to take an hour. And then I still needed to go to the regular checkout line afterwards because no one knew how to help me buy stamps at the self-checkout. As we were leaving the store, my mobile child was lured to the evil machine that dispenses bouncy balls, and it took quite an effort to convince him to walk away from it.

As we traversed through the parking lot (did I mention it was raining?), we finally arrived at our vehicle, only to discover that my oldest had inconspicuously placed a stuffed animal toy ball thing at the bottom of the cart, and I quote, “Because my other toy balls at home are lonely.” Stifling my frustration, I attempted to hoist him into the cart so that we could go back into the store to return the stolen item.

And then an angel appeared. Strangely enough, the angel looked a lot like you. You were with your son, beginning to load groceries into your car that was parked next to mine.

You noticed me and asked if you could help me push the cart while I put the kids into the car.

“Have you ever had a day like this?” I said to you with a look of defeat. And you responded with an emphatically compassionate, “Yes.”

I explained that I was actually on my way back into the store to return the furry contraband. So you offered to take the toy into the store for me.

I gave a sincere “Thank you,” but I really wanted to wrap you in a hug. You were a stranger. You could have judged my parenting on account of my wiggly, emotional child. You could have quietly put your groceries into your car, pretending not to notice me. But instead, you offered compassion. To me, a total stranger.

You touched my heart today. And you taught me a valuable lesson: When there’s an opportunity to offer compassion instead of judgment, do it.

I hope to be like you when I grow up.

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