I sat in the doctor’s waiting area, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The front desk ladies were talking to one another about a mom who had just passed by the open door of their office. A pediatrician’s office is just down the hallway, so they assumed she had come from there. The child in the woman’s arms coughed loudly, a deep guttural cough that had to hurt. Immediately the ladies commented. “That mom waited way too long to bring that child in to the doc. Did you hear that cough?”
“Yes,” said the other. “It sounded like a chair scraping across the floor.”
“Right?” said the first. “What kind of mom waits that long to take in a sick child?”
“Tsk, tsk,” muttered the second. “Such a shame. Really. Poor kid.”
So many assumptions made in a matter of seconds. So many. And that mom, worried as she probably was, thrown under the bus by two people who had utterly no clue about her story.
It took me right back to a moment from my early single parent days. I was a smoker, so I know I reeked of cigarette smoke. I stood in line at the grocery store and placed my items on the belt. Samantha was dressed in her favorite t-shirt, which unfortunately had a chocolate stain right down the front. When it was my turn to pay, I pulled out my food stamps and handed them to the cashier. I could feel the eyes of the woman behind me burning into my back. I looked at myself through her eyes. Smoker, dirty child, buying frivolous food with food stamps. She had no way of knowing I was celebrating a birthday and spending all I had to buy fun food for a friend.
I turned to look, hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t. I saw her look at my girl with compassion and glance back at me with a look of disgust.
Poor girl, she probably thought. What kind of mom…??
As if I hadn’t already heaped shame upon shame on my own heart.
We don’t know. We don’t know the stories of the people around us. We don’t know what they just came from, where they are headed or what’s inside their hearts.
I can’t end there though. Because you know what else I remember? The souls who saw me. The ones who looked me in the eyes and said hi to my daughter and treated me with kindness and respect. I remember those who stood outside with me while I smoked my cigarette and asked me about my world. They didn’t see a messed up single mom, they saw a hurting woman in need of care and attention.
And they gave it to me.
And those that saw me and loved me? They changed the course of my life with their kindness.
May we all do the same.