Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Paying it Forward

I know how it feels when someone offers to return my cart when they see me struggling to load my toddler and my groceries into the car.

It lifts my spirits when the lady I pass in the parking lot smiles at me.

And when the cashier at Target is happily willing to adjust the price on something when it doesn't ring up correctly, it is so refreshing.

But I also know that this is not the norm these days.  The other day when I made a return at the Gap, I asked the salesperson if she would be willing to toss the bag in which my items had been shipped into the trash behind the counter.  She said, "Sure!  I appreciate you asking."  When I looked surprised at her comment, she said, "Most people just leave their trash on the counter."

So, I feel challenged to break free from "the norm."  During the months of November and December, every magazine I flipped through and blog I read was all about Thanksgiving and giving back.  But during the other months of the year, and particularly this season of wrapping up school, music lessons, and sports, it's all about survival.  People are cranky because they are overwhelmed, or exhausted because they have a sick kid at home.  Don't get me wrong, I am definitely there sometimes.  But when I do feel up to it, I want to make someone smile.

The cool thing is that making someone's day doesn't cost anything.  It doesn't require me to go out of my way.  It's a tiny act that can make a BIG impact.

Our celebration place--the fountain outside of Qdoba and Sweet Frog.

The other night I took my boys out to eat to celebrate their good report cards.  Qdoba followed by Sweet Frog is our tradition.  My big boys ran ahead to the fountain, and Camden was lollygagging.  I turned around to tell him to pick up the pace and noticed he was so enthralled with his sweet treat he could hardly put one foot in front of the other.  A young man said, "They can be difficult at that age can't they?  I have a little one too."  I told him they can be difficult at any age and that I had three of them.  Just then my two big boys walked over to where we were standing and the man looked at all of us and said, "You're doing a great job."  This guy was probably younger than me, only knew what kind of mother I am from the five minutes he had spent with me, yet his words have stayed with me, especially when I want to throw in the towel.

Before our baseball game, my oldest gave me a hard time about dinner.  He didn't like any of the dinner options I was offering, so he pouted in the backseat on the way home from piano.  When we got home, our neighbors wanted to play, but he was so grumpy he went inside and slammed the door.

You're doing a great job.

At the baseball field, my youngest was kicking dirt and rocks toward the other parents on the bleachers.  I asked him to stop and he just looked at me with this mischievous, two-year-old, naughty grin on his face and did it again.  I gently took his hand, guided him around the back of the bleachers, and we took a little walk.  Later, I not so gently snatched him up and carried him, kicking and screaming, away from the crowd after he walked over to me and clocked me with a foam baseball bat.

You're doing a great job.

My middle guy was fooling around in the bathroom and "accidentally" spit on my youngest son's arm.  I knew it was on purpose and I had asked him not to do it already.  I sent him to his bathroom to finish brushing.  When we were finished with the teeth brushing (hallelujah), Carson said, "You probably don't even want to read with me tonight because I am such a bad boy and I always do the wrong thing."  Frustrated and exhausted from the long day, I took a deep breath and assured him I did want to read with him and that he is a good boy who made a poor choice.

You're doing a great job.

That all happened yesterday.  And each time I wanted to admit defeat and think to myself, I never plan good meals that my kids want to eat, I can't control my toddler, or I'm not a good disciplinarian, I remembered the man from the fountain's words.  And the next time I see a mom who is struggling with her kids or looks like she's had a hard day, I pledge to tell her...

You're doing a great job.

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