It was the Wednesday before MEA break. The kids and I were at Sekapp Orchard to try to do something fun, and restock our apple supply at home. When it was time to leave, my napless-wonder of a 3-year old had a full-blown screaming meltdown. I spent 10 minutes (which felt like an hour) trying unsuccessfully to calm him down, and wrestling my arching, screaming, fighting, kicking child into his carseat, while his older two brothers unhelpfully yelled at him to quit screaming. It was an extremely loud disaster in the middle of a surprisingly busy parking lot. After a long struggle, letting the straps all the way out to cross them over him and tighten back down while holding him into his seat with the other arm, I finally had him buckled in. While he continued to scream at the top of his lungs, I shut the door and squatted down next to the car for a minute, trying to just breathe, while fighting tears. It had been a hard day, a hard week, a hard year.
Out of the blue, you showed up. You came over and asked me if I was ok. You said you wished you could give me a hug (but, you know, COVID). You told me that I was doing exactly what I had to. He was safe, and buckled. You told me I was doing a good job. And with tears in my eyes I just said, “Thank you. I’m so tired.” I don’t know your name, or even what your smile looks like behind your mask, but your words were exactly what I needed in that moment.
I know I thanked you sincerely then, but can I even tell you what that really meant to me?
You saw me. You didn’t judge me for having an out-of-control, melting down, shrieking child. You didn’t ignore us, or roll your eyes. You saw my struggle and pain, stopped, and walked towards it. You leaned into it. It may have only been 90 seconds out of your day, but to me, it mattered so much. I thought about your kindness the whole way home, and several more times for the rest of the week. I reminded myself of your words: that I am doing my very best, and I am doing a good job, whether my boys are having a good day or not.
This is what the world needs. For us to see each other’s pain more often, and be willing to stop. To ask the stranger with tears in her eyes if she is ok. To offer words of affirmation and encouragement. To build each other up. To lean in.
Thank you for reminding me, woman at the orchard, that community doesn’t disappear just because we’re in a pandemic. Thank you for showing me the impact stopping and offering a few words of encouragement can make. Thank you.