kindness 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.

books 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.


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12 thoughts on “Kindness

  1. Amen! I also am so hesitant to let my duties (responsibilities? needs?) be a “burden” to someone else. But I need to remind myself that people are often happy to help. In fact, sometimes I think others benefit the most from having the opportunity to connect with and help someone…or just hold a sweet baby while I tie my shoe. Which is not a bad proposition for either party. :)

  2. Wow-this story really is beautifully written! I seriously need a moment to compose myself at work-because the story made me tear up, what a beautiful moment of kindness! I don’t know what it’s like to have kids (my husband and I don’t have any yet) but I can totally see myself at the library checking out a bazillion books and wishing for some help!

    • Right? I’m so glad that most weekends, Eric is able to be home with us, and the days DO feel different. But the weekend days he has to be gone? Forget about it – I soothe myself with chocolate.

  3. Let me tell you something from the other side of those sunglasses.

    I have three children. Close enough together. I feel every moment of that juggling you are doing.

    And while it has not gotten easier as they’ve grown up – the difficult, the challenge, the frazzle, has changed.

    It’s no longer at the checkout line or in a restaurant. It’s no longer at the library or the shoe store. It’s in quiet times, at home, in the car, battling over effort put into exams or redrafting an essay, in whether you can go out AGAIN or whether you’ll be allowed to attend that concert without an adult.

    But you know what is still fun? And seems sweet and charming? The little girl in the stroller, tossing shoes as her mother tries to find some that fit big sister. The toddler in the grocery cart who has had ENOUGH. The charmer about to start ripping library books apart because he is sick and tired of sitting quietly.

    So we help. We make faces. We open doors. We discuss how very sparkly the shoe already in hand might be.

    And we’re happy to do it – so don’t feel like it’s a burden, ever. It’s a pleasure, it reminds us of how frazzled we felt, and how far we’ve come. It lets us pay back past kindnesses too.

    • I love this – thank you so much for taking the time to share these thoughts! I’m so glad to hear that it’s no burden from “the other side of the sunglasses”!

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