Two people collided in an unfortunate situation, and one person decided to extend grace while the other did just the opposite. A great reminder that you never know what’s going on in someone else’s day. Beautifully written, by my friend Sarah.
To the disgruntled, elderly gentleman at the food court:
I am sorry my toddler bumped your chair. I really am, and I told you so. I hope my words were polite and sincere, as I meant them to be. She shouldn’t have been running through the tables while I gathered our things to leave, and she shouldn’t have bumped your chair, which, of course, was an accident. I am sorry that you didn’t have the patience to speak to me kindly and sorry you felt the need to gesture rudely to the play area and suggest, rather angrily, that I take my children there. Believe me, I would have loved to have been there instead, but children need to be fed. Frequently. And so, there we were.
What you don’t know is that I wanted us to be there even less than you wanted us to be there. I despise the dingy food court and the food I was allowing my children to eat. But we needed new pajamas (short-sleeved, to fit over a cast), and it was lunchtime. We tried to make the best of it.
What you don’t know is that this same toddler had spent the last three hours playing quietly and peacefully while I carefully bathed her sister without bumping or splashing her broken, temporarily bandaged hand; letting me hold her still while we watched her sister bravely have X-rays taken; entertaining herself (peacefully, for the most part) while her sister’s hand was put into a temporary cast. She even sat still for 20 minutes to eat lunch, which, for this active 21-month-old, was a milestone to be celebrated (with a run around, apparently).
You also don’t know that my not-yet 4-year-old, who had been so, so brave and compliant with the X-ray techs and the PA casting her, had been crying for the better part of the last several hours, in pain and in frustration and confusion. And you don’t know that I’d been up with her twice in the night while she whimpered in pain for more medicine. The crying and whining is challenging for me, as it is for most parents, I’m sure. It grates on my ears and makes me want to scream sometimes, but that would be unkind and unhelpful, so instead I take a deep breath.
You may have thought I was a neglectful parent and irresponsible citizen, given that I did not see my toddler bump your chair. I had pulled out my phone to text a “thank you” message to the sweet friend who had come over after work the previous night to bandage my daughter’s hand in a makeshift splint so I didn’t have to take two kids to the Emergency Room by myself while their father was out of town.
What saddens me most is that the trials our little family endured in the day leading up to our unfortunate encounter with you are nothing in comparison to those of so many parents and children. They are temporary, solvable problems, and we are fortunate to have the means and the support to resolve them. My children are fortunate to have a loving father who works hard to provide for them, and who happens to be a doctor who knew how to solve this particular problem. As luck would have it, he was thousands of miles away at the time, but he coordinated with the folks in his (non-pediatric) office, who dropped everything to take great care of us and send him pictures of the X-rays immediately so he could evaluate them minutes before boarding his flight home. We are fortunate, and we are blessed.
While your rudeness caught me at a vulnerable moment and made me want to cry, the only lasting impact it will have on me will be to remind me to be kind, even to those who are unkind to me, because, as so many others have said, I don’t know their story. And I don’t know yours. But for those other parents and children and people who truly struggle in ways that I’ll likely, fortunately never understand, I can only imagine how you’ll make them feel. And I wish there were something I could do to change your mind.
Doing the best I can