A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Walmart. Shortly into our trip, I could hear a child struggling. He was screaming, throwing some major temper tantrums, and when he came into vision, he was almost bucking himself right out of his seat. This poor toddler was beside himself.
However, his mother was not. She was unusually calm; there was an almost odd sense of peace about her. She smiled. And I say “odd” only because it was uncanny how she kept herself so powerfully composed.
Despite her son’s incessant outbursts, she kept pushing through her trip, despite what many would think was the wrong decision. If looks could kill, this poor mother would have been finished, right then and there. As our paths crossed in almost every aisle, I was mortified for her for a number of reasons.
I’ve been there myself, all too many times. We all have.
When I take all of my children grocery shopping alone and manage to survive, I consider it a huge feat. Normally, it’s never pretty, and although the parenting experts that be say you should immediately remove your child from the store to show them you won’t tolerate their inappropriate behavior, it’s not always an option.
For some, this is our only opportunity we have to get our family’s groceries and we must push through the agonizing trip, whether this is going to be a pleasant experience for all or not.
Each immoral glare I saw her receive — not to mention the few appalled whispers I caught — made my heart just break for her. I, too, have received those evil looks and felt as if I was ready to crumble and hide in the first corner I could find.
For some reason, I was completely drawn to this woman. As people sneered and looked down upon her, their eyes asking how dare she let her son ruin everyone else’s shopping trip, I looked at her in total admiration. I thank God I was able to notice what everyone else seemed to miss.
There were times the mother did calmly intervene when necessary. However, when it was appropriate, she let him express himself in the only way this sweet angel knew how to. And what others failed to see was the handful of times I saw her stop to go over picture cards with him, showing him that soon they would be going home.
Her inhuman grace and patience gave me chills.
There I was, trying to with all of my might to hold one of my toddlers safely in the cart as she was almost climbing out of her buckle, bribing the other toddler that if he was a good boy and stopped touching and pulling things off the shelves he’d earn his fruit snacks in the car (great parenting, right?), and coaxing my oldest to just give Mommy a few more minutes and to hold on to the cart as her legs grew tired from walking and she begged me to carry her.
Was I a picture of grace and beauty? Hardly.
Before my encounter with this woman, I had recently started specifically seeking out and praying for more patience. It is something I have always prayed for and even joked about, but I truly felt convinced that this was, and still is, an area of my life that needs some serious attention and improvement. I felt a deep conviction to better myself by increasing my patience, although I’ve yet to find the magic ingredient to sustaining this concept. On some days, it seems simply impossible, and I think to myself, If Mother Teresa or the Pope were here, I just wonder with every ounce of me if they would be holding it together with the circus that is going on?
But it was at the most appropriate time that I was, I felt, brought to this woman.
Not only did we cross paths in several aisles, but it turned out I was right behind her in the check-out line. Without even hesitating, I went up behind her, softly put my hand on her back and told her I thought she was an incredible mother. With the most surprised, yet warmest, smile, she immediately burst into tears. I think that was probably the last thing she expected to hear at the end of her shopping trip, yet it was probably something that she deserved to hear from anyone who took the time to see the phenomenal things she was actually doing.
She introduced me to her son and briefly shared some of their struggles they faced on a daily basis with autism. I felt humbled to just be in their presence, and got to meet such a handsome, bright-eyed, intelligent young man. It’s truly amazing how God facilitates such perfect timing in our lives when we least expect it. I felt that I left my grocery trip feeling more inspired as a mother than I had in the longest time.
After our few minutes of sharing and talking were up, we both parted ways in tears. The mother thanked me for reaching out to her and shared that was not feedback that she normally received. I assured her that all the thanks was for her as she was a blessing in disguise, a walking example of true perseverance, sincere compassion and an overabundance of patience that left me in complete awe of her.
How often do we catch ourselves being so quick to judge? Especially in the cynical and competitive society we live in? As mothers we want to be the best, want our children to be the best, and if and when we’re not, we twist and manipulate thoughts and make excuses in our heads until we believe something which is not, in fact, reality.
I feel bad for each person, especially each parent, that crossed paths with this mother, and didn’t get to see and experience and leave with the inspiration that I did.
I constantly look to be inspired: to find people or situations to improve my outlook on life and encourage me to become a better person. I think of the countless times I was not in tune or open to the hundreds of moments that I was right smack in the middle of but resistant to, found myself in total shut down mode , or just too busy to even notice.
Life is simply about moments.
We won’t remember the days, but rather the moments that impacted and changed our lives. Luckily for us, these moments are all around us, waiting to be discovered and experienced. The hard part is already done. All that is left on our parts is to live with our hearts and eyes wide open.
Isn’t it amazing that we find inspiration in the most surprising places at times when we are least expecting it, but fortunately, when we need it the most?
This article was written by Regan Long and originally posted on Scary Mommy. Regan is a wife, mother to 4 children under 7, author, diamond beachbody coach, columnist, blogger, photographer and teacher. To follow her daily adventures focusing on faith, family, and fitness, you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.