I believe in kind gestures. Nothing grand, but those small, simple things that you may, or may not do, to help another.
I am a mother of three children, all under the age of 4. When Maya, my youngest, was a newborn, the thing I dreaded most was to take the kids to the grocery store. One day out of desperation, I hatched a plan to steal away after dinner to get the weekly trip over with. Since my husband lacks the necessary equipment to feed the baby, she would have to go with me, but leaving the other two behind greatly improved my chances of surviving the trip.
We really didn’t do so bad, Maya and I. She slept contentedly in her car seat carrier as I cruised through the aisles. This is a breeze, I thought. I checked off my grocery list with relative ease, even stopped for a few ladies to marvel at my beautiful sleeping girl. I could probably even stop for a Starbucks on the way out.
It was when I was sandwiched between two carts in the checkout aisle that my little angel’s eyes snapped open. She gazed up at the florescent lights, looked around, then her eyes set squarely on me. She started to scream. Shhh, I cooed, Maya, just a minute, I’ll get you outside and feed you. Unfortunately she didn‘t see it my way. I could feel the stares of my fellow shoppers as Maya‘s screams grew more fevered. I’m sure they looked on with sympathy, but in my hormone-laden, sleep-deprived head, they were surely wondering why I could not keep my baby quiet. The woman in front of me sorted through her coupons, not phased and certainly not rushed by my predicament. The cashier seemed annoyed, by my shrieking baby or the coupon queen, I wasn’t sure. I was full of milk, my body apparently not getting the memo that we were holding off on feeding time. My cheeks flushed, a trail of sweat trickled down my back. I finally got my turn to check out, paying as quickly as I could. I fumbled my way out of the store, the cool night air chilling the sweat that soaked my blouse, the frustrated tears on my face. I’ve failed in some way, I told myself. How am I going to handle three children if I can‘t even make it through the grocery store?
Then, a voice behind me, a woman’s voice. At first I wasn‘t sure she was yelling for me. Pretending not to hear, I hurried on to my car. But the voice grew louder and more insistent. I turned. Standing there breathless, was a woman whom I’d never met. “I want to help you load your groceries in your car so you can take care of your baby,” she said, smiling warmly at me. “No,” was my first reaction, “I’ll be fine.” “Please, I want to help you,” she said. I stood there, not knowing what to say. She laid her hand gently on my sleeve. “I’ve been there.” Those three words were all she needed to say for me to realize that someone knew my frustrations, my insecurities. I wasn’t the only mom who‘s ever struggled. That woman saved me. Not from the job of loading my groceries, but from looking at my sweet Maya’s face and feeling like a failure, feeling all alone. She put the bags in my trunk while I settled into the car to feed my baby. We chatted about our kids, how quickly they grow. She laughed at how it seemed like only yesterday when she was in my shoes. We parted somewhat awkwardly, me thanking her profusely, her not quite understanding what warranted such an outpouring of emotion.
This I believe. A simple gesture of kindness to a stranger could just mean more than you will ever know.