It was a typical Sunday. My husband was out of town for work. Kid 2 was two days out of an illness and Kid 1 was now experiencing the loveliness of the ailment. I had just finished two hours of power-productivity for work on top of household chores and I couldn't put it off any longer.
The oranges were fuzzy, the bananas brown, and there wasn't a single vegetable left that looked appealing. Despite Kid 1 being sick, I had to do it. I had to go grocery shopping.
It was going pretty well in the beginning. I found a parking space really close to the entrance. Yes; I'm one of those people who scopes out the parking lot for the closest spot. It's not that I don't like walking; but when you're lugging a 20 pound baby and a bouncy four-year-old, the shorter the distance the longer I can keep my sanity. I also remembered the list so things were shaping up nicely.
I placed the carseat with the baby (Kid 2) in the front of the cart over the handle and my daughter (Kid 1) skipped along beside. Well, kind of beside. She mostly bounced back and forth from shiny object to shiny object like in a pinball machine. When she bounced around in front of the cart I couldn't see her because of the carseat being in the way so I spent most of my time moving my head around like an ostrich trying to see where she was so I won't run her over.
Kid 1 also really likes to organize things. In addition to accident prevention, I also spend a fair amount of time trying to avert her attention from reorganizing the store shelves according to color.
So what I'm basically saying is that solo shopping trips with the kids are exhausting. Inevitably, I get up to the checkout and see that I've forgotten milk. Why is milk always at the back of the store?
This past Sunday was especially exhausting following about four weeks of kids with back-to-back colds and some very busy weeks at work. Kid 2, the baby, was finally feeling good and Kid 1's medicine was kicking in so I felt the grocery store run wasn't going to be too terrible this past Sunday.
Things went pretty well until the very end. I went back to get the milk and nobody had a meltdown until we got into the checkout line. I can usually hurry through this step without too much trauma but this particular trip was not going to get me through with such luck.
As the cashier tried to ring up my items as quickly as possibly Kid 2 started crying while Kid 1 was rearranging the gift card rack. I was trying to mitigate the damage being done to the gift cards and pacify the baby at the same time. It was clear that a pacifier wasn't going to do the trick. I pulled my wallet out of my purse to pay for the groceries while simultaneously trying to add formula powder to the baby's bottle that I also had stuffed in my purse. It was a frantic scene fit for a circus side-show. Then suddenly the clouds parted and I was saved.
I heard a small voice above the crying and looked up to see a friendly woman pushing her cart past the register. She asked if I needed help and was willing to hold the bottle for the baby if I didn't think that would be too strange. I gladly accepted and while she held the bottle I paid for the groceries.
I was so surprised and thankful all at the same time. I've been fortunate to receive many acts of random kindness throughout my life but this was extra special. I was frazzled, tired, and trying to keep it together long enough to make it home.
Just when I was about to crack, a stranger stepped in and even though the assistance only took about 90 seconds, it did more than help me. It calmed me. It also inspired me to pass on the favor to someone else in need some day.
How many times do we pass by someone who could obviously use a little hand but we keep on walking? I am grateful to this kind stranger and hope that in return I can be a kind stranger some day. How about you?
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.