I spend a lot of time wrapped up in the details of daily life. It’s chaotic. I shop for groceries, I feed the kids, then I shop for more groceries. I try to keep Riley from sticking his finger in the light socket. I wash the laundry. Everybody feels the need to wear clothes on a daily basis, so I wash it again. Kids get sick. Then they go to the doctor. Then another kid gets sick. I could go on for a while…
And as I shuttle kids to doctor and dentist appointments and try to decide what to do for dinner even though I’ll be driving Josh to lacrosse practice when I need to be cooking that dinner, I can feel a bit overwhelmed. And impatient. I don’t have time to wait in a checkout lane while someone searches their bag for a coupon. I need to get home before Riley has a lack-of-nap meltdown. And no I don’t want to let you merge into my lane since you waited until the last possible moment to do so. I get wrapped up in my daily life and I miss the fact that people around me are hurting. That person at the checkout taking forever with their coupons may have just lost their job. The last minute merger may be on the way to the hospital. And the mom at Target letting her toddler throw a temper tantrum may have just become a widow.
One day those hurting people were just like me. Not problem-free, but content and comfortable. Perhaps their biggest dilemma of the day was how to get two kids to two different places at the same time, not realizing that it’s a pretty good problem to have. And then something unthinkable happens. Maybe it’s a car accident, a cheating spouse, or the death of a loved one. Everything changes instantly. Now your worries are huge. Now the daily grind of life would be a dream come true.
A friend of mine experienced that kind of change today. She lost a child today. She lost her sweet little boy. I’m overwhelmed with grief and sympathy for her. I lot of tears were shed in our house today as we tried to imagine the pain she and her family are feeling. Wondering how she’ll manage to get out of bed tomorrow and imagining what she will feel when she finds a tiny sock in the laundry. It’s a helpless feeling to be far away from someone on the worst day of their life. I know there is nothing I can say or do to take away any of her pain. But I wish so badly that I could. I wish that there was some magical thing I could do that would heal her heart a little. I know there isn’t, so I will have to just say a lot of prayers for her and let her know I’m thinking about her.
I’m also thinking about how her life will have to continue. Days from now, she’ll have to pull herself out of the house to take one of her girls to a doctor appointment or pick up milk at the grocery store. And although every step out the door might feel like knives in her heart, she’ll do it because she’s a mom and her two girls need her. So she’s probably going to be the mom in Target letting her toddler throw a tantrum because she won’t have the strength at the time to do anything other than push her cart through the checkout line. And she’ll probably cut someone off in traffic and she may not be polite to a server at a restaurant. But strangers around her won’t know why. They will be wrapped up in the daily grind of their lives wondering why that mom isn’t paying attention or isn’t being polite. She won’t be trying to be rude, she’ll just be trying to get through the task at hand so she can go home and cry. She won’t need the finger or a lecture on parenting. What she will really need is a hug or a kind word or a smile. She will need someone to make a tiny effort to show her love. And she’ll need it often.
I won’t be able to be there to give her a random hug or a smile. I won’t be there to return her shopping cart to the store while she buckles her toddler into the car. I won’t be able to let her go ahead of me in the checkout line when her daughter is crying and I won’t be able buy her a cup of coffee when she goes to Starbucks. But I can do that for someone here. I can be kind and show love to people, even when they don’t seem to deserve it. And I can remember that there is always someone around me that is hurting. And if we all do those things, maybe that hug or smile will make it’s way to her.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” –Plato