It was a season when I craved belonging. And this simple, unplanned act changed everything.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch a Facebook Live where I choke out this story through tears, and share an update on my relationship with alcohol.

It’d been a down season.

We’d just changed schools. My husband’s business was having issues. I’d just lost a friendship and was badly wounded.

I needed friends.

I’d just had our fourth baby, and our oldest was in first grade. I was struggling with not feeling like my body was mine. I was struggling with not feeling worthy of friendship. I was struggling with trying to emotionally support my husband while silently stuffing my own emotions. I just trying to make it through each day without breaking down in front of my kids.

Every morning, it took all my strength to simply get out of bed. Most afternoons or evenings, I cried. I had no one to talk to. It sounds depressing, and it was. It was a hard season. We’ve all had them.

But I had to keep going.

One evening, our new school was having a Trunk or Treat event so I dressed up all the kids, and we went. We barely knew anyone at the school, and I thought it’d be a great way to try to meet some new families.

We parked our car in the neighborhood next to the school and started on the sidewalk toward the parking lot.

At the same moment, another group came on the sidewalk at about the same spot. It was 2 moms and their kids.

The moms were clearly good friends. They were in the middle of a story. I assumed they had come together.

They walked a few feet ahead of us, and then, their group stalled just before the entrance of the school.

“Alright, get together guys!” one of the moms said, as she lined her kids and her friend’s kids along a chainlink fence and pulled out her phone.

And, before I could stop them, my kids walked over to the fence too.

I didn’t really know what to do.

“Oh no, guys,” I finally gasped, waving at my kids to come back toward me.

There was a knot of sadness in my throat I knew only I could feel.

“This is their photo. Come on over here!” I stammered.

The other mom kept looking at her phone and smiled warmly. She didn’t miss a beat.

“Oh, this is perfect,” she said. “Come on in, guys.”

And in that moment, a warm rush came over me.

Because I realized something:

She was including us.

She could have said, “Oh, just a minute, guys!” Or, “Hang on, you guys can take a picture with your family in a minute.”

She could have said so many things to shoo my kids out of her picture. And I wouldn’t have blamed her.

But she didn’t.

Without thinking, she included us.

I didn’t expect it. I didn’t even let myself wish for it.

But I needed it.

I needed it so badly.

My soul was starving for acceptance and familiarity and kindness.

She told my kids to inch closer to hers and then asked my hammerhead shark to move his teeth so we could see his eyes.

“Okay, ready? One, two, three, cheese!”

They Included My Kids in This Photo

This is that photo.

It just took me 35 minutes to find it in my old pictures. But I’ve kept it. I’ve thought of it so many times.

That day, this photo changed my world.

I didn’t know this other mom, and she didn’t know me.

But she invited my kids to be in her photo because she decided in that moment that she would include.

She included me, and it cost her nothing.

She included me, and it was everything.

Turns out, several months later, I met that mom again and we became friends. She’s now part of my tribe. She’s who I text if I’m running late to carline. She’s actually picking up my kids from school today.

She didn’t need to include me. She already had a friend.

She didn’t need to be uncomfortable. She already knew everyone at the school.

But she did.

She included me when she didn’t have to.

She included me when I needed, so very badly, to feel included. When I needed someone to hug me and erase all my feelings of unworthiness and loneliness and loss and heartache.

She included me, and I’ll never forget how it made me feel.

She included me, and it changed my world.

Is there someone in your life who would love to be included, and it costs you nothing to bring her in? I can promise you, your invitation would change her world. Join the conversation on the Facebook page, or Instagram, and as always, thank you for being here.