Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Lesson at Stater Brothers

I was mildly irritated this afternoon for no good reason. Little things didn't go little, I can't remember them. I had a small headache.

Just got back from the market, where I was behind a youngish woman in line with three small kids. She looked old beyond her years, with circles under her eyes and no make-up. Her hair was pulled carelessly back. Her eyes and mouth never smiled. It was odd...she seemed melancholy and powerless, not angry.

She quietly snapped at her oldest daughter, maybe nine years old, to watch the two year old, who kept running away and grabbing candy bars. The four year old whined and...well, whined. The kids had uncombed hair and shabby clothes. The oldest had tears in her eyes at not pleasing her mother.

I felt my irritation growing. And my heart went out to the oldest girl. That mother...has she no control? Where's her parenting? Can't she control her kids? What's wrong with her? I confess. I was judging her in my mind. Judging her harshly.

She picked up her squirming, giggling two year old with one arm, and tried to pay with the other. She blushed with embarrassment and exhaustion. And frustration.

Her plight touched me. Finally. I wanted to say something, and...thank you, God.....I said something remotely kind. "You have your hands full," I smiled.

She turned to me and said," It's so hard. I take care of them alone."


"My husband...he's in Iraq. His third tour of duty." She sadly sighed. "It's hard. And my children get emotional when he leaves and he's gone. It's hard for them." She seemed relieved to tell someone.

"Uhhh" I mumbled, feeling shocked and rightfully stupid. "Uhhh....I hope you have good support."

"Not really. Sort of....I go sometimes to a support group for military wives at a church."

"Do you go to church there? There's a lot of support at church. "

"No.... Maybe sometime. " Two of her kids were screaming.

"I have to go" she nodded her head. And she walked out.

Thank you, God, for slapping me with my shortcomings. I should have done more, though.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." --- Matthew 7: 3, 5

1 comment:

Hoots said...

This is almost identical to Stephen Covey's subway car story in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. He used it to illustrate how quickly one can experience a paradigm shift by learning a small scrap of information.
In his story the misbehaving kids were being poorly attended by their father. As the intervention started, the writer learned that they had just left a hospital where the mother had just died. The entire picture changed instantly.