On kindness

My late afternoon, ambitious journey meant heading into town and to a mall of all places, where we hadn’t ventured together in years and certainly never with all six kids by myself.  As we drove to the mall the kids read the store names loudly and tried to conjure up some memory of days when we frequented these streets regularly.  Days when busy roads and sitting in bonafide traffic were normal.  We almost look like we fit in when I look down at my foot and see that a goat stepped  on me just before we left and the whole top of my foot is muddy and brown.

We make it through our purposeful trip to get fancy cupcakes and support a friend’s book launch simultaneously.  On our drive home, which proves exceedingly long due to my forgetting what traffic looks like, we stop at a grocery store and grab some dinner-ish food to get by until we make it home.  Two kids are crying in the cart.  Two others are inches from touching the salad bar and under the scrutinizing eye of an older woman with tight lips.  I mutter that this was a bad idea.  Hungry would have been better than this.  But we forge on.  We manage to get some food and get to the checkout.  As we get into line a store employee comes over and stops me.  I brace myself.  I expect the worst.  I wonder if one of the kids sneezed into the salad bar or knocked over the bread display or sampled the soup when I wasn’t watching.

She puts her hand on my arm and says “One of our customers was watching you…” I am about to get kicked out of this fancy grocery store “…and she got you a gift card, it’s for $50, to buy your groceries.”  My eyes fill with tears and practical me says someone else needs this more than me but I don’t actually say a thing.  The store worker wraps me up and gives me the warmest hug and smiles big.  I say thank you and I beam and I relish the gift.  The wonder of an unexpected, undeserved kindness.

There is such power in small acts of good.  Not that $50 is small.  It’s wildly generous, and to a total stranger, truly…wow.  It made my whole day.  I couldn’t shake the feeling like someone noticed me, someone saw me, saw my bumbling through the grocery store trying to be patient and take care of my kids well.  Motherhood is such an unseen occupation.  Those moments where we are extended even just a bit of grace can tip a day the other direction, and so quickly.

The oldest two are typing at the computer next to me.  They are full of anticipation of their end-of-year reading aloud tomorrow night of their research paper.  Rylee wrote about Helen Keller and Caleb chose Patrick Henry.  Rylee is helping Caleb polish his concluding paragraph, they are comparing word counts, fixing any last minute errors.  Caleb is bouncing behind her in excitement.  She is patient.  She pauses and says to him in the sweetest, most genuine voice “Caleb, I love you” and goes back to her typing.  She could be frustrated.  His frenetic energy and constant movement might be construed negatively.  But Rylee is learning kindness, choosing to serve her brother and to love him, just as he is.   And it is more beautiful than anything.

Working together, learning together, reading together…some of the immeasurable gifts that come out of our home educating lifestyle.  This morning as I read the end of a stunning, deeply moving Newberry-award winning book to the kids about a family during the Civil War, I was in tears more than once and did my best to choke out the words.  One phrase in particular stood out this morning (from Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt):

the saving grace of kindness

Isn’t that exactly what it is?  Kindness extended can feel like life and breath sometimes.  It is lovely.  And it is a gift.