He was wearing sunglasses inside.
Right there, in the library on Saturday morning. He stood there, near the checkout computer, eyes covered and with an scraggly white beard that had hints of tobacco stain. He wore black, some leather, and seemed out of place, surrounded by parents’ lugging Trader Joe’s tote bags of books and their toddlers hyped up on the recently ended storytime.
I was one of those parents. Owen, Elsa, and I had gone to the storytime that morning because it was Saturday and Eric had to be gone all day and I felt sorry for myself that this weekend day felt like every other day of the week. We needed to get out of the house. So, with Elsa in the Ergo, I’d done my best to contain Owen’s endless energy for the duration of the storytime…and then, between chasing Owen down as he raced around the bookshelves and trying to keep Elsa asleep, I managed to find a bunch of new books to take home.
Baby in carrier, toddler firmly in hand, I lugged our thirty pounds of books towards the checkout computer. The mom in the front of the line checked out their fifty-seven books, while Owen tugged and tugged on my hand and Elsa started to make that squirming sound which, ignored long enough, erupts into what is definitely not a library-friendly squawk.
And he was next. The Man in the Sunglasses, standing quietly to the side with his handful of books. As the lady in front was finishing up, he moved closer to us and looked into our bag. As I was about to move back a step or two, he turned to me and gestured for me to go next. Me. With my twenty-two books and three dvds and fleeing toddler and grunting baby. I shook my head and said, “No…no…we’re going to take forever. You should really go.”
But he insisted. So, I somewhat sheepishly stepped in front of him, corraled Owen with my knees, leaned down, trying not to drop Elsa out of the Ergo, and started pulling out books. And suddenly he was next to me. The Man in the Sunglesses was sliding my books under the scanner, one by one, as I pulled them out of our bag. With a gruff voice, he told me about how he too had two kids and how he remembered what it was like when they were little. He then helped me reload the bag. And then opened the door for us as we departed amidst a flurry of thank you so much-es.
It’s humbling, you know…to be helped. You start to think Man, I must look really frazzled….or Does everyone around me think Owen’s misbehaved? IS he out of control? It’s just so easy to be wrapped up in myself. But in a moment of clarity, I thought about him – the Man in the Sunglasses. About how he brought his day to a halt and used his sunglassed eyes to really see someone else….me. And I thought about the lady at the zoo who stopped her walk to help me buckle the Ergo behind my back when I couldn’t quite reach it. About the older gentleman who played peek-a-boo with Owen the entire time I was bagging my groceries last week.
This is what kindness is. It is seeing other people. It is putting their needs above our own.
Admittedly, this is a needy season for us. This transition from one kid to two has totally rocked our world, taking away the consistency and routine that my Type-A soul thrives on. Oh but my prayer is that the Lord would help me to really see. To see beyond our ever-present toddler tornado of diaper bags and missing socks and fill me with the energy to do what I can with the moments I have. That I would never grow tired of doing good. That I would see through the sunglasses.
top photo from unsplash.com