Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! Luke 6:31 (The Message)
They walked into the grocery store at the same time I did. Or rather, she walked, one rode and one, she carried. In the buggy seat, was a little girl about four dressed in a pink leotard and tights. She looked like she had just come from ballet lessons. Mom was dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt, her long blonde hair pushed back from her face. On her shoulder was a little boy about two, sound asleep, face pressed into his mom’s neck. The ballerina was crying as mom tried to console her. “Tomorrow’s your birthday party, now be good so we can get the stuff to make your cake.” The promise didn’t work. It was witching hour. That time from 4:30 to 7:00 when little angels turn into demons. The time between nap and supper when fatigue and hunger combine to create crankiness. I remember it well. It seems like just yesterday that I was pushing my own grocery cart with one boy in the basket and one on my shoulder. After a full day of work, a run through the grocery store was necessary before dinner could be a reality. How hard it is to placate a fussy preschooler, juggle a toddler, and push a cart with one hand! All the while, mentally calculating the cost of your groceries and praying that you have enough money to pay for it all. I kept intersecting with them as they went through the store. At one point, mom was on the phone and I overheard her say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming home for dinner. I just came to get cake mix. Do you want me to bring you home something to eat?” Another time, her cart in the middle of the aisle, she stared blankly at the cake mixes while the ballerina whined and rubbed her eyes. Another customer wanting to get through, said to the ballerina, “I’m just going to move you over to the side,” and mom snapped to attention and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll move her. I’m just standing here doing nothing.” I don’t think it was just the children who were tired and overwhelmed. I had a cartful of groceries and wished the cashier had not already started ringing up my purchases when the trio slipped in line behind me. Surreptitiously, I glanced into their cart to see only a box of fried chicken, a jar of honey, one cake mix, one can of frosting and two cake pans. I said to ballerina, “Is it your birthday?” Mom tried to get her to talk, but she wouldn’t so mom wearily said, “She already had her birthday, it was the 19th, but tomorrow is her party.” You could see on her face she was so tired. I know the thought of baking a cake that night wasn’t something she was looking forward to. Clearly, she needed some cheer in her life. So I said to ballerina, “Well, my boy has a birthday this week, too. But, he lives far away and I didn’t get to bake him a cake. It would make me feel really good if I could buy the things for your birthday cake? Can I do that?” Mom sputtered and protested, but before she could continue, I snatched up the cake mix, frosting and pans, put them on the conveyor behind my groceries and told the cashier to ring them up. As he did, mom’s eyes filled with tears and she said, “No one has ever done something nice like this for me. Thank you. Thank you so much.” I smiled, handed her her groceries and said, “Someday when she is all grown up, you can do it for someone else. Happy Birthday.” And we both left the store with a smile on our face.