Several weeks ago, I dropped my girls off at school. As I pulled out of the carpool lane, I saw a woman walking on the sidewalk. She was carrying an infant in a carseat, had a toddler hanging on her legs, and was holding the hand of another crying child she was trying to convince into the school.
A thought popped into my head. “Pull over and offer to watch the baby and toddler while she gets the kid into the school.” I dismissed the thought, because, well, it seems weird to pull over and offer help to a woman I don’t know. But the though persisted. “Pull over and help her”
The truth is, I WAS that mom. Not many years ago. My oldest child cried nearly every day before school (stomach aches, head aches, throwing up, the works). I had a toddler and a baby who cried the first year of his life. I was tired. No, I was exhausted. And the daily routine of life was almost more than I could handle at that time.
Nearly every day at school (which I started dreading the night before), I’d have to park the car, get the crying baby out (he literally screamed like a crazy person every time we were in the car, and pretty much every other moment of the day), get the toddler out, beg her to stay right by me, and then pull my oldest daughter out of the car. Somehow I had to get all three of them into the school, peel my oldest daughter off of me, leave her in the hands of someone else while listening to her sob, get the toddler and the infant back to the car, and drive home often crying myself. It was a hard, hard year.
(see, crying. He was always crying. And my oldest isn’t crying cause she wasn’t at school)
I saw that woman and I got sick to my stomach. All those feelings came back. I remembered. I remembered how hard it was and how lonely it felt and how awful I felt as a mom dragging my sobbing child into the school each day.
The thought came to stop. But I kept driving. I got to the end of the road and thought I should turn around, but I didn’t. And it’s bothered me ever since.
My question is, Why? Why didn’t I stop? Why don’t WE stop? I saw her. I identified with her. I had total and complete compassion for her. But I kept driving. And she pulled that kid into the school by herself, with a carseat on one arm, a toddler on her legs and a sobbing child in the other hand. And she probably cried while she drove home too. I imagine if I had stopped it could have changed her feelings completely. Five minutes out of my day.
I can come up with a dozen reasons why I kept driving. Some of them may even seem valid. I was in my pajamas with no shoes (yea, I do that). I had two other kids in my car already and couldn’t really get out and manage all four kids. She didn’t know me and would probably think I was a crazy person. She wouldn’t leave two of her kids with a woman she doesn’t know. I didn’t want to make her feel bad or like she wasn’t capable. It could be embarrassing or uncomfortable for both of us. The reasons are endless. And they’re really just excuses.
The point isn’t whether she would have accepted my help or not. The point is whether I offered it. I could have talked to her. And identified with her. And told her “I get it”. No judgment. No pressure. No unsolicited advice. Just one mom supporting another mom. Encouraging her. SEEing her. And letting her know we’re all in this together. And if we looked out for one another a little more each day, life maybe wouldn’t feel as hard.
Since then, I’ve been making efforts to change. If I think of doing something that’s good, I try to do it. And if I think of something kind to say, I try to say it. Even if it makes me a little uncomfortable sometimes (and sometimes, okay often, it does).
I wonder what the world would be like if each of us just did the nice things we think of doing and we said the nice things we think of saying. Instead of thinking it and not acting. And thinking it and not saying it. The world would change I think. People would change. And life would maybe feel a little bit easier.
If we think it, and it’s good, DO IT. If we think it, and it’s good, SAY IT. It really is as simple as that.