Today, after dropping the last of my children at their summer activities, I stopped at Aldi in Northern Kentucky, far from my usual stomping grounds. Lucky for me, Aldi is more or less the same everywhere—four aisles of deals, facilitating a fast dash through for essentials.
There was another mom there, infant strapped to her chest, two preschoolers in the cart seats, and another walking beside her. More accurately, he danced, twirled, and hopped into my way down every single aisle. I wasn’t in a hurry, and he wasn’t bothering me one bit. Still, the mom scolded him each time to stay out of the way. Even though I didn’t mind, I still zipped my lip. No mom of little people appreciates someone following up her instructions with, “Oh, it’s OK. He’s just being a kid.” What Mom says goes. Don’t tell him it’s OK to do what Mom just told him not to do.
I digress. Anyway, this mom, not losing her mind or any of her four children, managed to finish her shopping and ended up in line two people ahead of me. As the cashier finished ringing her order, the mom realized that she didn’t have her wallet. She told the cashier she would have to call her husband and stepped aside to do that.
We are all that mom. I have, more than once, done some online shopping and left my wallet on the desk, not realizing it until I was at the grocery hours later. Perhaps you haven’t done that specifically, but I suspect you have failed in equally small and spectacular ways. Ever have to take grocery store cookies to the holiday cookie exchange because you just couldn’t fit baking into your day? Ever forget to pick a kid up after school or practice? What about a whole morning of errands, including meeting the principal, with your shirt inside out? With perspective and distance, these are not a bit deal, but in the moment, that weight is heavy.
The elderly woman in front of me quietly instructed the cashier to pay for the mom’s groceries. She also asked him to let her get out the door before he told the mom in order to avoid any awkwardness or embarrassment.
Sometimes you will be at the right place at the right time and can be just the help a person needs. Don’t hesitate. Don’t make a scene. Just do it.
The cashier told the mom her bill was paid and handed her the receipt. Mom’s mouth fell open. She said, “I can’t accept this.” The cashier shrugged and explained that the woman who paid had already left. The mom gathered her composure, her children, and her groceries and left as well.
When you are offered kindness, take it. I don’t know about you, but I find it very hard to accept help. I feel like I should be able to do this motherhood thing—in fact, this whole life thing, all on my own. I can’t. None of us can do this all alone. So the next time a stranger offers me a kindness—from a compliment to a free cart of groceries, I’m going to remember the mom at Aldi and just accept.
Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty rotten about the world we live in. A whole lot of awful things are happening, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what to do about most of it. I hate that feeling—frustration piled on top of helplessness and worry. Today, I got a just the reminder I needed. There are kind and generous people everywhere. There are also opportunities for each of us TO BE kind and generous every day if we just pay attention.
When you have the privilege to witness people taking care of each other, soak it in, be grateful, and pass it on.