To All the Kind Strangers - Thank You
Being a parent definitely has its perks. Warm cuddles, kisses and hugs. Built-in playmates. The pride in your offspring’s accomplishments. And the pure, simple joy only a child can bring.
I don’t know about you but I have experienced one other perk of being a parent that was quite unexpected: The kindness of complete strangers. People who wouldn’t throw me a second glance as a single person became transformed when I had a little kid in tow. Strangers practically fell all over themselves to hold open doors, entertain my restless child in the grocery store check-out aisle and enthusiastically listen to her stories, jokes and thoughts on life. Then there are the numerous medical professionals who have been so, so kind and sweet to my precious girl as she endured the standard well-child exams and vaccinations and the not-so-standard hospitalization for an infection several years ago.
There are two strangers in particular that I will never forget, Angels sent from above when I was at my lowest. And their momentary kindness has continued to impact me years later.
The first Kind Stranger appeared seemingly out of nowhere in a check-out line at a large warehouse store.
After enduring several months of intense pain, I was preparing for back surgery and a month of basically not being able to do anything. I needed to stock up on food and household items, and, since I had a four-month-old, this meant buying diapers. A LOT of diapers.
I had heard this particular store had great deals on cases of diapers so I, with baby girl in tow, endured the 40-minute drive (one of the more painful activities during this time) and made my selection. After handing the clerk our family’s membership card, she said “You can’t use your husband’s card to make purchases.” I explained to her that I had used the card previously at that store - to no avail. I pleaded with her, saying that I would be having surgery in a few days, that I had driven 40 minutes to buy these diapers and that there just wasn’t time to have my husband return with me to the store. She wouldn’t budge.
In steps Kind Stranger: “I’ll buy the diapers.” <cue visual of a woman standing tall and strong, hands on hips, with a slight breeze blowing her hair and fluttering her cape>
Store Clerk: “Huh?”
Kind Stranger: “She’s with me, I’m paying for the diapers.”
Me: “Oh, well, you see, I can PAY for them, the problem is she won’t let me.”
Kind Stranger: “Nope, I’m buying the diapers. How much do I owe?”
After collecting my purchase, I practically had to run to catch up to Kind Stranger. I thanked her profusely and again asked if I could give her the money. She kindly refused and disappeared into the parking lot.
Completely. Blown. Away. This woman’s kindness and generosity erased my frustration and helplessness and gave me much encouragement as I faced a risky surgery and uncertain future.
The second Kind Stranger must have been secretly laughing his head off as he watched me melt down in the parking lot of his ice cream shop.
Let me tell you, I was sandwich-generationing big time that day and it was not going well. My mom was no longer driving and I really wanted her to spend some time with us at our country home. So, one hot summer day, I packed up my two-year-old and made the two-hour drive to pick up my mom.
After helping mom pack and lugging her stuff out to my car, I was hungry, tired and hot so decided to swing by a local ice cream shop for a treat before we made the trek back to our house. And this is where the fun began.
As most moms know, it was easier to just go through the drive-through and enjoy our ice cream drinks in the car. I am not sure how it happened but all of a sudden I had ice cream all over me and my car. Simultaneously, I noticed the low-tire signal on my dashboard. I got out of my car and basically threw a fit. “How could I be such a klutz? Where on earth am I going to get my tires checked? All I wanted was to do something nice for my mom and my family and now I have to clean up all this ice cream, figure out how to get my tire fixed and I’m hot and this sucks and rush hour is starting soon and Lord only knows when we’ll be getting home….” and on and on and on. You get the drill.
A voice breaks into my chaos: “May I help you?”
After looking over and seeing a gentleman sitting at a picnic table, I almost died - how long had he been watching me?
Kind Stranger: “Looks like you could use some help.”
Kind Stranger, who turns out to be the owner of the ice cream shop, proceeds to get me several damp towels so I could clean myself up. He looks over my tires and discovers one has been impaled by a nail. He invites me, my mom and daughter into his shop and proceeds to give my daughter a free ice-cream cone. He tells me that a friend of his owns an auto repair shop across the street and that I can bring my car there right now to get my tire fixed, which happens in about 20 minutes. When I return to pick up my car, the mechanic informs me my bill has already been paid and wishes me a wonderful day.
OK, this happened over eight years ago and I can hardly see these words for the tears. This man’s kindness went so far above and beyond what I could have ever hoped for from anyone and it was exactly what I needed in that moment.
What a blessing these Kind Strangers have been to me! The kindness of these two people amazes me not only because they were there at just the time I needed them, but their actions continue to give me the inspiration and joy I need to get me through the tough stuff. Kind Strangers, I will always treasure the memories of how you helped me.
To you, and all the Kind Strangers - thank you.
Sarah VanderMeiden, M.S., BCC is a Board-Certified Coach specializing in helping people get clear on their purpose and how they wish to live it through their education and career. Learn more at sarahvandermeiden.com