12.20.2012

beauty trumped my doubt

It's been hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I attributed it to the fact it's still pushing 90 degrees regularly down here in South Florida, the beads of sweat still dripping down your hairline and making even a walk to the mailbox unbearable. The Newtown tragedy played out over the news and like many others, I sat there stunned and heartbroken, unsure of what to make of it all, unsure of how we were all supposed to continue living when so many babies have had their lives taken from them, taken from their families. It's been hard to sleep at night, as a parent, desperately tracing the outline of my sleeping toddler on the screen of the video monitor and feeling so thankful that he's sleeping soundly in his crib at night. It's been a strange week in which Ethan has been ultra clingy and strangely shy around everyone except me and it quickly went from a nuisance to a gift. Each time he threw his little body on mine, his arms tangled in my hair and a whine murmured against my cheek when a stranger simply waved hello to him, I soaked it all in. So many parents cannot.

And that's exactly what I've been thinking -- so many parents cannot -- when Ethan and I have been running our holiday errands. Between the woman in line behind us at Target hurling the cruelest, most hurtful insults at her eleven year old boy because he forgot to grab an envelope when he ran back for a birthday card or the man who shouted "just leave me alone, I'm busy" without even looking up from his I-Pad at his two small children who just wanted to throw a penny in the fountain at the mall, my heart has felt heavy. I found myself so close to overstepping so many unspoken boundaries. Excuse me, but do you know how many parents wish their children could forget an envelope for that birthday card? Do you know how many parents wish they could throw pennies in the fountain with their little boys? Instead I just held Ethan tightly, kissed him and promised him I'd always be here for him. When a woman screamed at a teenaged Starbucks barista about how there "better not be a drop of caffeine" in her decaf latte and then shrieked at him to "not be fresh" with her when he said that decaffeinated products still had trace amounts of caffeine, I pushed Ethan's stroller in an entirely opposite direction. It was too much. These people, where were their hearts? I gave Ethan two pennies and held his hand as he gave one to each of the two little boys still being told to "go away" by their father.

It was earlier in the week as well when Ethan and I came home and found that a wonderful friend of mine had thoughtfully sent him some gifts for the holidays. What we also discovered was that someone had taken it upon themselves to steal the gifts, leaving a mess of bags and a torn box and ripped wrapping paper all over our doorstep.

My friend had mailed the box from her local post office branch and it had been marked as damaged with contents removed at my local post office branch, who insisted the blame was put on my friend for leaving the package on her doorstep (which she had not done, as she mailed it from the post office). It was an obnoxious circle of accusations and sarcasm in which the postal employee's conclusion was that I needed to buy my child new gifts and just utter indifference to the fact that a postal employee had helped themselves to my son's gifts from a friend.

Seriously. I was suffering from major Christmas apathy until this morning at Target, in the check-out line, when a woman walked over and handed the cashier money. "Apply it to her bill," she said. "Merry Christmas," she added with a smile to Ethan and I and then walked away before anyone could say anything else. I was admittedly stunned and my mother insisted that now I had to pay it forward, too. Our next stop was to the grocery store but financially there was no way I could cover someone's groceries. Instead, Ethan and I purchased five lottery tickets and handed them out to people who observed doing good deeds as our morning of errand-running continued.

Being forced to stop and observe the good deeds right in front of our faces -- like the random man who stopped what he was doing and left his cart full of groceries to help an elderly man load his groceries into his car -- was a Christmas wake-up call. For a while, we forgot about the weather so hot that mirages of water danced in front of us on the asphalt. I handed Ethan the lottery tickets and showed him how to hand them to the kind people right here in front of us, the ones who don't selfishly park their two-door sports cars in the reserved stroller parking at the mall, the ones who don't demean people for working hard while others are shopping, the ones who don't watch someone spill the entire contents of their purse and turn back around and continue talking. Today we were forced to focus on the smiling faces, the grocery store employee who always greets Ethan with a free balloon in whatever color he chooses, the woman who saw us struggling with so many heavy bags and helped us bring our empty cart back to the store. It lightened my heart, to help show Ethan the beauty around us when we remind ourselves to look.

14 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. In a fast paced city, I'm always amazed at the kindness, generosity and compassion I see when I stop to look. I think that Ethan will always be able to see the beauty in life through his own autonomous lens, because he has a beautiful mommy shaping his view. xo - Monica

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    1. Thank you SO much for that, Monica! That means a lot to me! <3 Your kids are so lucky to have such a beautiful mommy shaping their views, too!

      It's all been a reminder to me to take more time to stop and look around to focus on the goodness. It's so easy to just see the bad sometimes. :(

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  2. What a great post. And how wonderful of you to pay it forward!

    I am slightly (read: really) jealous that it's 90 where you live!

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    1. It's funny, I complained endlessly about the heat and today it's 63 degrees and it was just TOO COLD to stay outside any longer! Us Floridians, you just can't win! ;)

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  3. I've heard about a couple of these good deeds recently, and it really warms my heart. People are hardly even civil these days, let alone kind to complete strangers! Happy holidays :)

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    1. So true! I've been so down in the dumps with all the rude people everywhere, that adding some genuine and unexpected kindness into the week was totally able to switch things up. Happy holidays to you too!

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  4. This is a beautiful post. I have to stop myself lately when I start to snap at my daughter for something so insignificant. I look at her and thank God that I get to be with her all day, to pick up after her when she tears the house apart and then hold her as she falls asleep. Because you're right, there are many parents out there this year who would give ANYTHING to be able to hold their children again. I just can't imagine, and it breaks my heart all over again when I think about what happened.

    Even though it's hot, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family :)

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    1. So true, right? Today Ethan threw his toys all over the living room and then tossed his food all over the living room and I was ready to pull my hair out but then I just remembered how lucky I am to have him here to throw his things all over the living room. It's truly such a tragedy...I can't even wrap my mind around the horror of what happened. :(

      Thank you! Have a wonderful Christmas, too!

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  5. What an inspiring thing! I am going to take inspiration from that and make sure i go out of my way to make someones day x

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    1. It was THE most fun thing to do! Ethan and I had a blast. I wish I had the means to do something like this always!

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