Today, I was leaving the store with my three little kids. It had been particularly crowded with all the holiday shopping, but the kids had been miraculously well-behaved. We survived the trip, cashed out, and steered our cart toward the exit.
As we were leaving, we heard raised voices. An older man and middle aged woman were shouting at each other on the way out to the parking lot. When we walked outside, their voices became louder, and profanity after profanity started spewing from the man’s mouth.
My children gaped at this behavior. They silently stared as our cart approached.
I was feeling more and more offended that they weren’t thinking of my children as we walked past. My kids, who are seeing all the signs and cards that proclaim the season “Merry & Bright.” My beautiful children, to whom I am nearly always repeating myself about not screaming or hitting, being patient, using kind words.
It was perhaps against my better judgement, but the mama bear in me couldn’t help it. I had to say something.
“Hey guys, little kids here!” I announced on my way by the arguing duo. That’s all I meant it to be- an announcement. A warning. Don’t bring this anger and foul behavior around my children. Think of the kids first before your own bad mood.
“Oh, f**k off!!” Screamed the man at me, waving me furiously away from him.
“Excuse you,” I replied, and walked on with my children, recognizing my mistake. I was not going to be the person to put this man to shame for his bad behavior or bring about any change.
“Little kids, pssh,” he grumbled as I buckled my kids in our nearby car.
“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” called the woman who had been arguing with the man. I told her it was okay and got in the van. Though it left me somewhat upset, his reaction wasn’t too surprising in hindsight.
But it got me thinking.
This man wasn’t the first angry person I’ve seen this season, and I’m pretty sure he won’t be the last. It’s rather ironic how many miserable people there are around the holidays, isn’t it?
Somehow the Hallmark messages of peace and joy don’t always reach us in the nitty gritty parts of life. It’s easy to get caught up in frustration over shifted schedules, hectic days, and over-spending. We get nasty instead of nice. We forget to do good and show common courtesy- sometimes even to complete strangers.
But when I’m deep down honest with myself, I have to be reminded that I’m no better.
How easy it is for even me to act unkindly when I’m rushed and ungrateful! I am prone to grumble instead of choosing contentment. I am more likely to snap than respond with patience. I huff and puff more than I laugh. Though I’m not generally as vulgar or explosive as the man in the parking lot, I can be almost as poor as an influence on my kids with my own bad behavior.
So may my encounter today serve as a reminder to us all, both during the holidays and every day.
It’s easy to be wretched, and much harder to spread joy and love.
Do good, even when you don’t feel like it.
Hold your tongue when you want to speak cruelly.
Go out of your way to be kind to stranger and kin. You never know who you’ll be able to help or lift up by doing so.
I hope that this is a message I can pass on to my kids- by my words, yes- but even more so, by my life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galations 6:9-10)
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