Every mom’s dreaded moment—your child is having a meltdown in a store.
Except this time, it was all three of my children at once.
And I was at the checkout, with nowhere to hide.
My baby was screaming, my three-year-old was crying, and my five-year-old was whining with tears. An epic meltdown. An out-of-control spectacle.
I was in shutdown mode. Breathing deeply, I tried to pay quickly and get going. Embarrassed, ashamed, averting my eyes. The red Target atmosphere seemed to heighten my internal anger. I was ready to boil over. Not here, I thought. Just get to the van. Get to the van!
Out of the corner of my eye, someone was approaching. Oh no, I thought, I can’t handle any harsh words right now! I will burst into tears myself. I cringed as the stranger approached me.
This woman, perhaps ten years older than me, placed her hand on my arm and said, “Good job, Mom!” She smiled and walked away.
I couldn’t process her actions in that moment, still in the store with three upset children. But later, once we were all settled for afternoon quiet time, I reflected on her kindness.
I feared an attack but received encouragement from another mom who understood.
I feared criticism but received affirmation from a perfect stranger.
I feared failure but received a lesson in grace.
Her words of encouragement transformed a moment of chaos into a moment of peace.
Peace with my children—they were hungry, tired, and overwhelmed, past their limits.
Peace with myself—I was doing the best I could in an unexpected situation. I didn’t lash out; I didn’t lose my cool.
Peace with God—he didn’t condemn me for failure to keep them under control. He spoke to me through a stranger: Good job, Mom.
To be very honest, most times when I see or hear a child’s meltdown in public, my first thoughts aren’t kind or encouraging. Usually I think, Take him outside where he’s not disrupting everyone’s meal. Or this one, Why can’t she get that baby under control? In my heart run undercurrents of criticism: Bad job, Mom. I turn the same criticism of my own actions onto others.
But the Bible tells us to encourage one another and build each other up. I want to be that stranger who encourages another mom in a struggle. The stranger who builds her up in her time of need.
I want to send this message: I’ve been there. We all have bad days. You can do this. You’re not alone. God loves you!
This plan will require my listening to the Holy Spirit’s prompts to action. It will require me to step out of my comfort zone and step into a stranger’s world for a moment. It will require me to be bold, selfless, and kind.
What about you? Have you experienced a stranger’s encouragement in a similar situation? Have you offered a stranger a word of encouragement? What steps can you take to offer words of encouragement to strangers today?
Blessings to you, Sarah
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Copyright 2016 Sarah Geringer