A few weeks ago, my kids and I were having a particularly rough, grocery shopping trip. And to be completely fair, the chaos wasn’t all on them. I’ve been a mom long enough to know that you don’t bring hungry, tired children into a store and then expect them to sit patiently and obediently as you complete your chores. But it was a particularly busy day, and I had decided to risk the potential craziness by shopping a little too close to nap and lunch time.
Anyway, we loudly rounded a corner into the baking and spice section, and our carriage lightly tapped the carriage of an elderly gentleman in front of us.
“Oh my goodness, I am SO sorry,” I apologized from the other side of my obnoxiously long, over-flowing shopping cart.
A smile popped onto his wrinkled face, and I instantly liked him.
He took in both hysterical children, paused a moment, then slowly cupped his hands around his mouth and whistled the perfect imitation of a bird. The mouths of both of my children dropped, and they went silent.
B-Boy gasped, “Hey, how you do that?”
The man replied, “It’s my invisible bird. He lives in my pocket.”
“I have one too,” Brady announced, cupping his hands over his mouth and blowing as hard as he could through it. Princess K giggled loudly, which only encouraged him further. We had gone from angry cries to the sound of laughter and wind.
I really, really liked this adorable, elderly gentleman… like a lot.
With the kids occupied, the man looked up at me, smiled, and pointed at the spices, saying, “Do you know how to make stuffed shells? It’s basil that I want?”
I nodded, “Yes, I’d say that basil would be good! Are you doing some cooking?”
He nodded. His eyes lowered a bit as he said, “My wife always cooked stuffed shells for my birthday every year. She’s gone, and it’s just me now. And I just want to eat them on my birthday and feel like she’s a little closer.”
For one brief moment, time stood still; and I felt as though my breath had been knocked out of me. I murmured that I was so sorry. I helped him find the basil.
He blinked his eyes a few times and apologized, “I don’t want to bother you with my talking too much.
I assured him that I wasn’t bothered at all. I love to talk! I proceeded to help him find some of the ingredients he would need, as we kept pace for the majority of the shopping trip. His infectious smile won over the children, and B-Boy proceeded to call him Grandpa (obviously having enough love in his heart to adopt another grandfather into his life).
Both kids giggled, and gave him high fives, and played peek-a-boo. I invited him to church; and we chatted a lot about the weather, upcoming holidays, and just life in general. We had gone from insanity to embracing the beauty of the moment faster than I could comprehend, and I just knew that we had been meant to bump into each other.
Before we parted ways, I told him, “Thank you for helping me with the kids today!”
He softly said, “Thank you for taking time to talk with me. I haven’t had anyone to talk to in awhile.”
As we walked off, B-Boy gave one final wave as he happily called out, “Bye, Grandpa!”
I looked back to see the man’s wrinkled face beaming with the largest, happiest of smiles.
To be honest, I almost cried for most of the car ride home, because my heart was so broken for him. But God put on my heart that He had sent me – a frazzled, busy mom – and my children to that elderly gentleman to help shine a beam of joy into his life. To help him maybe feel a bit of purpose and love again.
Had I been shopping alone, in stylish boots and calm state-of-mind, I would have walked right by that lonely soul who needed a bit of kindness. It was the chaos – the noise of two fidgety children being pushed in a runaway carriage – that brought us together. That actually allowed him to help me in the moment, which opened the door to us helping him.
I was reminded that while mom life has maybe changed some of the ways that I can share God’s love with others, it hasn’t destroyed it. God is powerful enough to use us in every single stage of life (even in the busy mom stage), through the good and the bad. We just need to be willing to be used.
God doesn’t put us on a backburner and say, “Come back when you’re put together again, and then we’ll figure something out.” He uses us in the midst of the messy craziness and sometimes even BECAUSE of it.
Because while we moms are so often struggling to find self worth and meaning amidst the daily routine, God sees us. Loves us. And USES us. Not only for the families we hold so close but for the others that cross our paths. And while we might not be hosting large fundraisers or volunteering for prestigious positions that address crowds, we can choose to show compassion and love for the individuals that God puts in our path.
That one person we reach at a time? They’re worth it.
Our impact doesn’t have to be loud and grandiose to matter. And while we moms might feel trivial and small at times, to God… we are enough.