It was the day before Thanksgiving and I needed a few more items for my pies, side dishes, and a gravy boat. (I know, how have I managed all these years without a gravy boat!) I had all three kids with me in tow as my husband was at work. Rather than go to the local store I chose to go all the way to Target as I knew they would have the carts that would haul and “contain” all three children. Selfishly, I also knew they would have a Starbucks upfront so that was a win-win for me too. I get a latte and they get a snack. I carefully secured all three children in the cart after waiting up front for the perfect “fun cart” to be returned from the parking lot in the long line of left behind buggies. I steer the monstrosity of a cart into the line for coffee when my toddler begins to meltdown about not getting a large rice crispy treat all to herself. As I am attempting to corral her screeching, I hear a woman on her cell phone say in the most annoying voice, “Umm excuse me, the line starts over there.” She motions to the left. In that moment of escalation, all I could think to reply to this woman was “Happy Thanksgiving.” I begin to back my cart up like a semi turning around on a freeway when the teeny-bopper barista pipes in and says “Yes, the line is over there ma’am.” I quickly exit the store to forego any further humiliation and calm down my now wailing toddler. I returned to the store as I still needed my items, quickly maneuvered through the aisles and went through self-checkout to avoid further human contact. In hindsight, I should have just given her the whole rice crispy treat.
A vastly different experience happened a few months back in a line at Disney World. It was near the end of the day and my kids were cranky and exhausted. A team member passing by saw this unfolding and stops by to talk to the girls about their day. She gets down to their level and begins to ask them what their favorite part of the day was, favorite characters, offers stickers and a smile to mom that said, “I’m in your corner.” She then stepped in the back for a moment and returns offering two chocolate chip cookies to the kids as a parting gift. She was on her way home for the evening as she was passing my exhausted family and yet spent the better part of 10 minutes making a memorable difference for each of us.
Every parent of multiple children has been in these situations at one point or another. Those times you’re just trying to complete a task and it feels like every force is working against you. When it feels as if every eye in a store is judging your parenting. What you wouldn’t give to have just a helping hand, someone in your corner, someone to share the load. A friend, a family member or even a stranger in a Starbucks line to share a moment of humanity and compassion with you. How easy would it have been for the middle aged cell phone “shamer” to simply use a kinder tone? As I impart often to my teams in business, it is not what you say but how you say it that matters.
We are each fighting our own battles every day that we can’t expect each other to know or understand. Nevertheless, what we can offer is a moment. A moment of courtesy, compassion and if nothing else a smile that says “I see you.”
In today’s busy working lives the family unit requires a community that extends much further than the immediate family. I fear in the age of cell phones and personal promotion we have lost sight of each other. I too am guilty of getting lost in my own agenda and so perhaps I am sharing my own opportunities for growth: in no particular order, To be present a little more with my family, my community, and my surroundings. To strive to make another person’s day a little brighter and build each other up whenever we can.
How will you be a little more Disney in a land full of Starbucks?