To the random, 60ish-year-old woman at Chick-Fil-A Paducah today who saw me very obviously losing it and struggling, who abandoned her spot in an obscenely long order line to offer to take my tray to the trashcan for me……..
You have no idea how strong I am. In fact, I may honestly be the strongest person you don’t know. I had just taken the boys to the splash park all the way on the other side of town and single-handedly kept them from getting run over by the big kids. I’d managed to address Cooper’s fear of getting water in his face with a sopping wet (fearless) Aiden on my hip. I’d wrestled with them for an hour in the hot sun, midday. I’d dragged them to the car so that we could leave and fought with Cooper four times about his walking into the street on his own while I was putting Aiden in his seat and buckling him up (resulting in a public spanking and tears behind my own eyes). I am strong.
I’d driven all the way to the other side of Paducah at noonish on a Friday when school was out. Everyone in Paducah knows that that means. It means a line of cars that circle the entire establishment for the drivethru lane. It didn’t matter. Cooper had begged to “go inside.” I’d stood in that same very long order line with two topless, wet kids for 10 minutes — the smallest wiggling in my arms and the residual pain from my January hernia repairs aching. I’d dragged them and a high chair to a table near the play-place so that we could eat, opened 4 packs of ketchup, 3 of barbecue sauce, and 2 straws — allowing the youngest and most independent little dictator to put his own straw in his cup which resulted in a mighty flood all over the table. I am strong.
I inhaled my food, knowing that I would be needed for a 5th ketchup, a dropped straw, a “napkin need,” a refill, and a dozen random questions about who knows what from the 4-year old. I had to hurry if I was going to eat. I’d chased them into the play-place when we were finished. I had again kept the smaller one alive while the bigger one made friends. I disciplined a child who wasn’t mine. His parent wasn’t in there. Someone had to. I’d crawled into the play-place three times to rescue the smaller one who’s too scared to go down the slide on his own. I’d dragged them both to the bathroom so the older one could simply check it out under the pretense that he actually had to “go.” I am strong.
I am strong. I’m sure you didn’t realize that when you offered to help me. I can move mountains. I can endure torture. I can answer a dozen random questions while also talking on the phone, changing a diaper, and voice-dictating a sermon. You probably didn’t realize just how capable I am.
You saw something in me today that I’d forgotten. Maybe it was a lack of humility needing to be checked. Maybe it was the fear in my eyes somewhere past the strength to a more honest place. You saw that in that moment. A moment where I stood from our table, threw a purse over one shoulder and put Aiden, unhappy and squirming on my hip, and gave Cooper instructions to follow me while I balanced every bit of our trash on a tray to try to weave my way through the standing-room-only dining hall of the Paducah Chick-Fil-A at noon on a Friday, bumping into folk’s chairs and shamefully apologizing for my clumsiness, my children, and my inability to keep my composure in a desperate attempt to not drop everything I was holding, including my toddler. You saw that. A bunch of other folks saw that too, but you saw that and were by my side in a heartbeat. “Can I please take that tray for you?”
A voice from the heavens. My first thought was, “Tell her how strong you are! Tell her, ‘no.'” But it was so wonderful — wonderful to not have to be strong.
“Yes, please. Thank you so very much.”
I don’t know who you are and maybe it was the smallest thing you could’ve done. The trip out the door, the trek through the parking lot, the buckling into our carseats again (one gets a towel, the other a blanket, the first gets his tea, the other a paci)……It was a small thing. Anyone could’ve done it. A dozen other people had a chance to, but you did.
If not me, then who? If not now, then when?
Thank you. Today you mean the world to me. And I will pay forward your act of kindness. I will be vigilant to the small things that can truly make a huge impact on someone else’s day. You have reminded me and encouraged me with your gesture to look for opportunities to love other people and that I don’t always have to be strong. Thank you.
A single mom. #pastormom