So often we walk through life, insulating ourselves from the strangers around us.
We keep to ourselves.
We mind our own business.
We go it alone.
The chance for connection is there, just below the surface.
But we let is float by, unacknowledged.
We don't bring it up into the light.
And then yesterday something incredible happened.
A stranger stopped me at Goodwill to tell me that I was "a wonderful mother."
I stumbled around, searching for grace, and tried to quiet the knee-jerk dismissal of her compliment that was bobbing to the surface.
Blushing, I thanked her and we walked away.
We ran into each other again and she repeated her praise.
This time I was ready. My acceptance came easy.
"I wish everyone spoke to their kids that way," she said.
"Yes," I said, "but we all have different personalities; different fears; different life experience."
"Different stresses," she added.
And before I knew it we were deep in a conversation about parenting, compassion, non-judgement and respect.
She talked about her own childhood.
And I don't even know her name.
Later that day in a moment of struggle, one of my kids told me that I was "the worst mom in the world".
I held the space for my child, allowing a full expression of big emotion.
And in that messy moment a stranger's words were in my head.
I am a wonderful mother.
And I thanked her again in my mind for having the courage to tell me so.
Somehow her words helped me do better in a difficult moment.
For that I am so thankful.
Each day we have the chance to connect instead of walk on by.
We have the opportunity to lift someone up.
We have the power to choose compassion instead of judgement.
Even someone you've never met before and will never see again.
Someone who is struggling to keep her head above water.
Or another who's brimming with grace.
What would change if you chose to reach out?
To reach into the space between strangers and create community, if only for a moment.
Because if you listen just so, the screaming baby at the grocery store isn't an irritation.
It's an invitation.
A chance to give of yourself.
Your empathy, your compassion, your arms.
I once offered to hold a crying baby at the coop. And that mama, three-fourths of the way through a day of wrong-turns and struggle, looked me in the eyes and began to cry.
And then she said yes.
Thank you – yes.
Because it was so hard that day.
And when you notice a parent being patient or kind or compassionate – pause and connect.
Let her see herself as you see her.
She might just need to hear it today.
My challenge for you is this:
look into the eyes of a stranger and lift them up.
Release judgement and find compassion.
Reach into that space between strangers and create community.
Because we need each other.
It's just that for a moment we had forgotten.
Your choice to connect could change someone forever.
It might just change you, too.
More inspiration here and here. You'll love these. I promise.
And this post from my own archives might be something else you need today.
18 thoughts on “Connecting with strangers: lift me up”
How sweet a moment and how timely too. It reminds me of the other day when my little one told me “Mommy your pretty.” Made me cry instantly of course, but I haven’t been called pretty by anyone for so long and was SO GRATEFUL. 🙂 I will be sure to return the favor the next chance I get. Thank you for the reminder!
Thank you for a wonderful article. If everyone would reach out with the smallest gesture of help, what a wonderful world this would be!
Great story! I always think of these moments as an opportunity to “pay it forward”. When I have been helped by strangers today, tomorrow I make an effort to keep my eye out for someone who could use a kind word.
Example: On a day that I was on the lookout to pay it forward and be a source of light, I found my chance with the surly woman at the Fed-Ex counter. I was about 3 deep in a very long line. She handled every customer interaction badly. She was curt, rude, and unhelpful. Then it was my turn. She took my package and started down the negative road with me too. I looked her in the eyes and gently said to her, “you having a hard day today?” Her eyes welled up a bit and she said “yeah, it’s a hard day today”. We exchanged some more words of hope and comfort and ended with smiles. She was completely turned around with the next customer. I think she needed someone to be kind, to acknowledge her inside hurts were valid and that people care. That experience changed me. Now I have days where I actively seek out these opportunities, because if I didn’t do it consciously I might not notice people like her. I might have made a snap decision that she was a bad/mean person, instead of seeing someone who needed my compassion.
oh, rachel — you’ve done it again. i have tears in my eyes.
my younger son is a “screamer.” when he’s happy, or sad or angry — he’s LOUD. mostly, in public, people are very kind and understanding. often, in public, strangers will whisper to me, “ah, one of my children was like this. it’s not easy sometimes. you are doing great!” and it means so much.
but a few weeks ago, we were at the grocery store and a woman said to me, “you need to make him stop.” I asked her what she thought I should do and she repeated, “MAKE him stop.” I looked her in the eye and said, “you think I should hit him, don’t you?” She looked right back at me and said, “Yes, that it exactly what you should do.” My response was,” And,you think hitting him will make him stop screaming right now?!”
I think she could feel the horror in everyone around us because she scuttled away and our grocery cart was immediately surrounded by store clerks and a few strangers who helped me calm my toddler.
but that exchange has stayed with me… and also the kind response from the other people who over heard.
Thank you for such a lovely article, with a gentle reminder that connecting with others is our life breath. You have such a nice way of expressing it. It reminds me of the times in my life when a stranger’s kind words made my day.
What a lovely lovely post! Thank you.
This made me cry. I have to say I’ve had several people throughout the years tell in a store how well I was doing at talking to a frustrated child. It really made my day.
Keep speaking the truth Rachel, we all need your words all the time!! 🙂
I absolutely love this. Thank you.
Your thoughts, your words, your voice, really are a life raft in ever human’s life. Blessings to you, your family and your beauty xx
pure awesomeness! i sure do enjoy starting my morning reading your pages.
Last week I was at the dental school getting some of the kids teeth fixed up. There were two doctors who were working at a table next to us and after a while the one turned to me and said, “I like the way you talk to your children.” It felt so good! I have recently been criticized sharply by people in position of authority that I don’t have enough control over my children and even that I didn’t discipline my child harshly enough in one instance! I’m a pretty confident mother but the reassurance was comforting!
Thanks for this! It’s fantastic!
Yes! Well said! People are so busy and so “in it” that often we forget to look up and notice what is going on about us- the chances to connect are missed! If I hadn’t looked up and opened up I would have missed out on a friendship with two of the most amazing ladies I know! So Yes to connecting!
Thank you for this. I know it is exactly what I need right now. The links you gave were amazing. As I sit here at my computer, I have a week’s worth of dirty dishes cluttering my counter, but they will get done eventually. The time I have given myself this week was greatly needed, and I will be a better person for it. Thanks for reinforcing what I know is true.
That was beautifully expressed. Such a wonderful subject to focus on. It is so important to say those little things we think, but keep to ourselves, not to be embarrassed into silence,
This made me cry. Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing mom. Your words have taught me alot in my journey to become a more mindful and calm parent.
Thanks for sharing this story! I’ve been there too – the noise, noise, noise! I was told that my son was “spoiled rotten” and I should give him a “whomp or two to teach him Who’s Boss”. Ahem. Really?!
My son was really loud as a baby/toddler and it took me a long while to accept – I fought with my self-consciousness (those looks!) and his need to be heard. It’s easier now that we’re in the realm of using words rather than volume, but oh how I struggled – meeting his needs didn’t come easy, but he really, really yelled to try and get me to start listening in the right way. Funny that I’ve now learned that quieting my own responses make hearing his needs ever so clear.
Strangers teach us many things about ourselves, for good or bad -I’m just walking forward, hoping I’m showing strangers something worth knowing.
Thanks, Rachel! Just right.