Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm so glad there are kind, caring, considerate people in this world (and just for the record, I truly believe that there are more of them out there than there are mean, cruel, hateful people - those ones just seem to get all the attention). I had one of these kind souls make my day about a week ago and thought it was worth sharing.

Tessa and I were grocery shopping, and I was heading into the store with her carseat on one arm, and my diaper bag and grocery bags on the other. There was a man walking in behind me and we both headed toward the carts. I put my coin in and was trying to hurry to get out of his way when he said, "Don't hurry for my sake - you have a baby, I don't". I thanked him and continued to hurry to move out of the way (if you know me well, you know that I absolutely HATE putting people out, being an inconvenience, keeping people waiting, etc). I had walked into the store and was off to the side getting Tessa's carseat in place and getting myself organized, when the same man came up behind me again and said, "If people are too stupid to realize that you have a baby and a bigger situation in life than them, IGNORE THEM!" He seemed genuinely concerned that I felt the need to move out of his way. I thanked him again and told him that I appreciated him saying that, and he walked away.

Now, don't get me wrong - I don't think for a second that I deserve special treatment because I have a baby. But it is SO nice when people go out of their way to make sure that you know that you're not an inconvenience. I've heard stories from other mom friends of people who are rude and impatient toward them; fortunately, I haven't encountered very many of these people myself. I think moms (and probably dads too) often feel more self-conscious than they should because of their kids, and sadly, it's probably because of something some inconsiderate stranger has said or done to them (or maybe it's because of the horror stories shared among moms?). Or maybe this whole thing is saying more about me - that maybe I'm too quick to assume the worst about people; that because I often tend to be impatient toward others, I think everyone must feel the same way toward me.

Whatever the case, all I know is that I was extremely grateful for this stranger, his kindness and patience and his encouraging words to a new mom. And as I write this, I'm reminded of other people, friends and strangers alike, who have shown such kindness and patience toward me and my baby. I often find myself almost apologizing for my baby before she's even done anything, and have quickly learned that people are way, way, WAY more gracious and forgiving than I give them credit for (again, this is me assuming the worst about others and being pleasantly surprised). So many times in church or at our community group or other gatherings when she's started crying or making noise, I feel the need to shush her or quickly leave the room only to discover that no one is even slightly bothered. So maybe I just need to relax, let my baby be a baby, and stop assuming that everyone is annoyed by us.

I wanted to share this story and these experiences because I think too often there is a tendency to remember and dwell on the negative experiences, and then expect that that's how everyone is going to treat us. These are also the stories we share with each other, perpetuating the myth that everyone hates babies and their moms and causing unnecessary anxiety and self-consciousness among new parents. In my experience anyway, those situations and those mean people are the exceptions to the rule and, like the man at the grocery store reminded me, should be ignored.

So, to the kind stranger at Superstore, thank you. To the forgiving people in church, thank you. To all the friends who smile in understanding when my baby has a meltdown, thank you. My hope is that I can show the same kindness and grace to other parents that you have shown to us.

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