I’ve found that very little in life is easy. But that which takes the cake – that which is among the hardest of my ongoing beautiful responsibilities – is being a mom. Sure, it’s the most rewarding hat that I get to wear, but it comes with many decisions I question, many sleepless nights filled with worry, and many struggles trying to ensure that each of my three littles see the world full of opportunity amidst its turmoil and challenges.
Being a mom is so worth it, but is so, so hard. And what better day to reinforce that statement than on Mother’s Day.
My oldest son is an inquisitive spirit and watching him as he takes in the world is one of the joys I get the opportunity to be a part of. You can see it in his eyes, as he soaks up each and every beauty that is offered his way. His questions deepen his love for life and his love for people. That’s a good thing because sometimes those questions make my head nearly explode! I’d like to think I know the answer to each and every one, but some are tough … some are intense … some are complex.
The night before Mother’s Day I realized that while most times his endless bouts of questioning deepens his understanding of life and its nuances, sometimes it can cause an unexpected outcome … an outcome that this momma wasn’t prepared with the answer for.
My son has always had a compassionate heart, especially for those we meet holding battered signs on the corners of off-ramps from the interstate. He couldn’t comprehend how some people didn’t have access to food or water, new clothes or a warm home. The more questions he asked, the more determined he was that, together, we would do our part and help each person we met in this way.
He became insistent that I carry packs of crackers in my car so we could be prepared to give each person something to help them through that moment. He even prayed to win the lottery so that he could build a large home where he could provide a safe haven for those needing a place to rest. My son, and his inquisitive mind, melted my heart.
As if answering questions on why or how someone could find themselves in these unfortunate circumstances wasn’t hard enough, just when I thought I had it covered, I realized I didn’t. I was pushed to think deeper when my son approached me the night before Mother’s Day with a new purview and a barrier that had been built around his previously open and giving heart.
While in the car with a family member earlier that day, my son saw a man on the side of the road holding a sign that acknowledged he was in need of help. Wanting to give something to help the man, my son began a conversation with the family member in hope to help the man. Instead, my son was left with a callous that now covered his empathetic heart. That night, he proceeded to tell me his new opinion on people who found themselves in situations much like the countless homeless people we had met. And instead of wanting to help them, he had been encouraged to see them much differently … to see them as undeserving of our acknowledgement and our resources.
My heart that had been so full from his beautiful acts was now broken. And while I tried to piece it back together, I realized I needed to piece my son’s back together too. And together, that night, I answered an endless lightening round of more questions, but these were less about the person we were helping and more about what helping does to us in return.
Mother’s Day was a splendid experience filled with cherished memories with my sweet little family. And my favorite part was when we ended it enjoying some delicious popsicles, each unique to our individualized palettes’ liking. We licked the sweet treats as we drove back to our house, and, like usual, we found a person needing some assistance at the end of an offramp from the interstate.
I could feel the energy in the car shift. My son tensed up, uncertain as to if we should help the man after the conversation he had had the night before. But I didn’t let that stop me. I rolled down the window, waving the man down, and gave him a pack of peanut butter crackers. It wasn’t much, but it was all that I had. I had hoped that in some small way, he would help him get through the evening.
“Are you a mother?” he asked as he graciously accepted the crackers. I drove a minivan and my three munchkins were all peering out their windows by this time. It just took a nod of my head to confirm what he already suspected.
“Happy Mother’s Day. And God bless you.” My smile widened, and I became the gracious one. That a man who needed much more than I could give took a moment to recognize me. What he didn’t know was that being a mom that day, and the night before, had been in the top 10 list of challenging experiences I had come to face thus far.
I rolled up the window and continued to enjoy my popsicle when my husband made the note that it appeared that the homeless man was talking to himself. Perhaps he was. Perhaps he was talking to the car behind me. I didn’t know for sure until I turned around to see if he was trying to talk to me and I hadn’t noticed.
You know those moments that take your breath away? The ones where you feel a gush of wind go through you and you can’t quite get your bearings? I’m talking about the ones that happen so fast that you can’t even think and when it passes and the moment sinks in, you are filled with immense emotions that you weren’t expecting to come?
That moment happened to me, right there at the bottom of an offramp as I waited for the traffic light to change, letting my family continue on our way. It happened when I turned to look back at the man who needed so much gift me with more than I could have ever asked for. It happened when I saw his lips moving while his eyes were closed, and I realized exactly what he was doing. It happened when he was finished, when he kissed his hand and offered it up, and when he looked back at me and smiled. It happened when he said a prayer for me that day.
I took a long pause, cherishing the warmth I felt inside thanks to the man who took my peanut butter crackers. And after that long breath, I turned and looked at my inquisitive little boy to finally provide him the answer as to why we should always help people no matter what.
No matter what you believe or what you’ve been taught. No matter why someone may find themselves in a position of need or what they might do with the kindness you give to them. No matter if they are working to change their lives or if they don’t have a clue how to. None of that matters. We are not the ones to judge. For doing something for someone isn’t about what they do with your kindness. It is about the action you take to give of yourself without wanting in return. I knew that was the essence of being a mom, but that day, I was reminded that that was the essence of being a human.
My Mother’s Day was the best one yet, filled with gifts of togetherness and moment of thankfulness, thanks to my three littles and the man who accepted my peanut butter crackers.