Small gesture teaches big lesson
December 28, 2004
As the New Year is fast approaching and we are all busy getting ready for the holidays and making our New Year’s resolutions, I am reminded of a small gesture, and a big lesson, both for this mom and her boys, and hopefully to all who read it.
It was New Year’s day 2001 and we are standing in a long line at Wal-Mart. A frazzled mom and her two restless boys. It had been a long day and a long month for that matter.
As I finally reached the front of the line, I wearily watched the items move across the scanner as I contemplated the drive home and having to unload all of the groceries before I can finally sit down and relax.
In the meanwhile, the distracted boys scan the candy section instead.
Just as the cashier collects my money, my oldest son holds up a roll of candy, reaches in his pocket and pulls out a hand full of pennies.
“Please mom? I’ve got enough.” I don’t know if it was my tired brain or my soft heart. “O.K.”, I sigh, “But you need to go to the back of the line and wait your turn to pay for it.”
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I pull my cart through and stand several feet away to wait. You get in line behind my boys. You are a tall, kind-looking lady.
You wait patiently as they take their place in front of the impatient cashier.
You watch over their shoulders as they count them out Ð 41, 42, 43, 44 pennies.
The cashier takes the money and the cash drawer closes. My oldest clutches the roll of candy, my youngest following close behind. As they turn to walk away you ask, “Where did you get that?”
They point to bottom shelf of the candy display. You reach down and pick up another roll, hand it to the cashier and tell her to ring it up on your bill.
“Here you go” you say as you hand the candy to the boys. “Thank you!” the boys exclaim with a look of excitement on their faces.
I walk a little closer to observe what is happening. The boys walk toward me with broad smiles, holding out the treats for me to see. “Thank you,” I say. “That was very nice.”
You answer with a soft smile, “They didn’t look like they had enough for two.”
It is at this point that I realize that the lessons I started out trying to teach my boys that day, (budget your money, wait your turn in line, share with your brother) were suddenly small compared to yours.
Lessons on how worthwhile people are, what matters and what doesn’t, patience, kindness and generosity.
It was all there. In one small gesture it was all there.
I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the modeling you did for my children.
I felt relieved to know that all the lessons my boys need to learn in life don’t have to come from me.
Where would I be as a parent without the input and modeling of others?
So often I find myself explaining the unkind world to my children, sugar-coating it where I can.
Instead, on the drive home we talk about the simple but kind gesture of a stranger. “That’s the kind of person I want you to be,” I say to my boys. I don’t need to explain it or sugarcoat it.
The lesson is a simple one. Is it a lesson in parenting? Perhaps.
A lesson in life? Definitely!
So, as we are busy with holiday chores and contemplating New Year’s resolutions, consider resolutions on being important in the life of a child this upcoming year.
It doesn’t often take but a moment. It can be a simple lesson in values through modeling.
A smile or a compliment in line at the grocery store can impact a child’s self esteem for a long time to come.
As I reminisce on my encounter with this kind lady and her simple act, I am convinced that it really does take an entire village to raise a child.
If you have questions or suggestions for the monthly Parents’ Corner feature, contact Tamela by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Tamela Taylor is a parent educator at Family Support Council and the Coordinator of P.A.C.T (Parents And Children Together) program.