I like to share stories. I have no artistic bend when it comes to paint and canvas, but bringing moments to life, giving them dimension and color, sharing the mundane that we all relate to and reminding us to laugh and be warmed by our collective human experience, that is what I can share.
Too often I let negative interactions with strangers affect me, and sometimes even define me. The jerk flipping me off for going the speed limit, the woman likening my breastfeeding in public to pooping in public, the foul mouthed comments written anonymously about things I care deeply about.
The reality is, there are a handful of crappy humans perfectly content to be crappy humans living among us. Their words and choices do not belong to me.
Recently, I challenged myself to share 30 days worth of positive meetings with strangers.
Here are the first three:
Meetings with Strangers Day 1:
I took the three littles to Target. As we were shopping Keegan (4 weeks old) lost his dang mind. He is a growing boy and believes strongly that a moment not spent eating is a moment wasted. As I was unbuckling him from his carseat and Eva (19 months) was trying to swan dive from the basket a young male Target employee asked, “Is there anything I can do to help, ma’am?”
I snarled back at him, “Can you breastfeed??”
Target employee: “No ma’am, but I will find someone who can and the wine aisle is right over there.”
Clearly this boy should be moved to a management position.
Last week, the big four were farmed out at school and Parent’s Day Out, so it was just Keegan and I at the grocery store. A woman came over and admired him and we chatted for a few minutes. She shared with me that she grew up in a family with five siblings and told me she remembers vividly how her mother played with them because she loved children. Her eyes grew sad as she commented how often she observes children starving for attention from parents who are busy staring at their phones.
She said, “No one is going to kindly listen to an old lady telling them to put their phones away. They’d probably just tell the story on Facebook about a rude old lady trying to tell them what to do. But I couldn’t have children and I watch families miss out on this short time because they want to know what everyone ELSE is doing.”
She reminded me to look into my sweet baby boy’s eyes and see the whole world.
Today at the grocery store an older woman asked if she could see my baby. He smiled when she asked. She looked at him and I watched as she was transported to the time when her children were small. A woman emits a glow when she is pregnant and carrying her child, and she has the same glow as she carries and recalls her memories of raising a child. She told me that she had two sons born four years apart. Those boys, now men, are her heart’s joy. She shared how much her husband loved their boys. How he played and wrestled with them. She shared that her husband was a strong man whose love for his children had even brought him to tears.
She told me that her youngest son now works with a doctor. One day she went to stop by their office to visit with him, but she saw that their office was crowded and told the receptionists not to bother her son, that she would just talk with him later. She was in the parking lot when her son, a grown man with grown children of his own, caught up with her to make sure she was ok and to tell her that he loved her. She had tears in her eyes as she recalled how special that moment was as she considered how she had given this boy spankings and had been firm, even stern with her children. How in those moments when they were young and she had to punish them she worried what the future of their relationship would look like.
Ms. Wanda is 82 years young and about to move on to a new chapter in her life. She is going to move and let her precious sons take care of her. Her words and stories touched this momma’s heart. We have five kiddos. The firefighter and I question ourselves constantly if we are doing right by our kids. We are too strict and too demanding in a world that produces Kardashians and trophies for showing up. We have FIVE children. Each completely unique in their personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Just last night the firefighter and I had a “come to Jesus conversation” wondering when we would have the time, the energy, the grace, the patience, the humor, the perseverance, the encouragement, the everything necessary to usher each of them to adulthood. And when they get there, will they still like us? Will they want to spend Thanksgiving at our table? Will they remember how much we laughed? Or is my “tiger face” the only thing leaving an indelible mark on their memories?
I am thankful for the Wandas of this world. Angels among us, who have stories to share and take the leap to start talking. I believe we are nudged within our souls to be the difference in each other’s lives. Otherwise, what is the point? Why walk this journey? Why suffer and still persevere? Religion and philosophy are only words on a page if we do not acknowledge that we are the hands and feet and our stories of grace in action are meant to change the world. I have ignored promptings because it is not in my nature to be bold, but the more people pour into me, the more they allow themselves to be vulnerable and share their truths, the greater my understanding of Design.