A Sapling Grows in Tampa

Image "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." – Mother Teresa

Recently, on a sunny and crisp winter day, my kids and I went to the park. As they ran off in different directions, I spotted a mother holding her new baby while simultaneously escorting her screaming toddler off of a basketball court. I didn’t know her but felt compelled to see if she needed any help. I feared she would perceive my offer as offensive or intrusive but I went to her anyway.

She appeared a bit stunned but said she was fine. I started to talk to the toddler and tried to make him laugh. He was distracted and forget about the beckoning basketball court for a moment. As I was blabbering on, I looked up to see his mom fighting back tears. I asked what was wrong. She didn’t tell me, and she didn’t have to because I understood. It could have been any number of things, but I had a hunch it was pure exhaustion. Chasing after a curious two year old and caring for an infant are challenging enough as individual tasks but trying to do both at the same time is nearly impossible.

And getting out of the house with a baby takes the same mental preparation as running a marathon. Also babies are constantly going to the bathroom…all over the place. I remember when my son was an infant and my father in law asked me if he had a hole in him. It was a valid question because I was changing his soaking wet onesies constantly (Finally I realized if things were pointing in the wrong direction, messes of epic proportion would soon follow).

I remembered all of that as I thought of this mother and the effort she exerted getting out of the house with her two small kids. As her attempt at a nice afternoon in the park turned into a bit of a bust, I hoped as she walked home that she at least felt a bit lighter knowing she didn’t have to carry the weight of being a mother in this world all alone.

This story came to mind when last weekend, after taking a breather from moving back into our house, I went with my kids to the toy store. They had been patient with my boring but necessary obsession of getting the house back together during every second of the day. Surprisingly, they did not find the purging and organizing as exciting as I did.

We found what we were looking for at the store and we were all smiles. But as I got to the counter and frantically looked for my debit card, their bright happy faces turned into looks of astonishment like I had just told them they could never eat pizza again.  I checked the hundreds of different pockets and folds in my wallet, purse, and pants, but my card didn’t surface.

Finally, hiding in the abyss that is the bottom of my purse, my checkbook appeared.  I swear there was a golden light around it. But the clerk told me they didn’t accept checks. No matter, I then spotted an American Express gift card but nope they didn’t take those either. I was about to give up when…

Our angel appeared. She was a friend of mine and as she walked into the store, hand in hand with her young son dressed in a police officer costume, we exchanged hellos. I told her I couldn’t find my only credit card but not to worry, I knew it was there. So I continued to sit on the floor, and sifting through receipts, some crumpled up with gum in them, I reminded myself that it was not a big deal. But my kids…I wouldn’t hear the end of it, and truthfully I just couldn’t deal with the disappointment and drama right then. Can I ever?

I was tired and ready to give up the pursuit. But then my friend turned angel did what angels do best and said, “I’ll take care of it.” She paid for our items and let me tell you, saved the day in more ways than one. First, my kids liked me again. Secondly, they would soon be occupied with their new toys so I could go back to my sorting, cleaning, and unpacking. And lastly, this kind little gesture made me feel like I lived in a real community, a place where other mothers don’t just look at one another and think to themselves, thank goodness that’s not me, but a place where we become angels for one another…a place where people put down their cell phones and look to see what is really going on behind the sunglasses.

We can’t do it alone and these kids we are raising aren’t just ours. They came through us and we are fortunate enough to get to love them. But they too are part of the world and have their own unique reason for being here. I am learning that it takes more than a village to raise a child, it takes the whole world. And with this in mind, we begin to take responsibility for all children everywhere.

Amelia Earhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees." Maybe my friend didn’t see this kind deed as anything out of the ordinary but to me it felt like the sapling of a beautiful new tree.