And, let's be honest, Wal-Mart on a Friday night is its own adventure.
The kids did well, though Cocoa Puffs - which we don't usually have in the Dingle house - ended up in the cart, as did a few other items that the kids convinced Daddy that they needed. Toward the end of the trip, Robbie - tired from a long day and less than an hour from bedtime - plopped on the floor and rolled across the aisle. In doing so, he blocked a woman's cart.
Lee scooped Robbie up and apologized to the woman, but evidently that wasn't enough for her.
"Where is their mother?" she asked, with no malice in her tone but no kindness either.
"She's at home resting," he replied.
"I wish I had her phone number so I could let her know how little control you have over the children. You should thank her when you get home for taking care of them."
It took Lee a moment to realize what she had just said, and she was gone before he could reply. Her tone had not been sharp, but her words had. Flustered, he grabbed the wrong item from the shelf and had to go back later to get the right thing.
Neither of our kids has any special needs, but she didn't know that. From the brief encounter she had with them, he couldn't have known that Robbie didn't have autism or another disability that might have made a trip to the store more challenging.
And, let's be honest, the diagnosis of being a two-year-old boy just before bedtime is enough to make a trip to the store plenty difficult, don't you think?
After I stopped fuming about the careless words the Wal-Mart shopper had dropped on my kind husband who was blessing me with a restful evening, I thought about a different shopping trip a few months ago. I was at a different grocery store by myself when a little girl - I would guess about five or six years old - had a meltdown. Her wailing could be heard in nearly every corner of a large store. For the next thirty minutes until they checked out, the child screamed and screeched. I passed them twice and exchanged brief smiles with the mother each time. I didn't offer any encouragement or offer to help because I wasn't sure how she would respond and because I was nervous about stumbling over my words in Spanish, a language that I speak but not well. I wish I had said something.
I don't know if the girl had a diagnosed disability, but I do know that they were having a rough evening. I don't know if other shoppers showed any kindness to this family, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to offer a couple of smiles. You never know what the realities are for a family or what that day has been like for them. (I try to keep that in mind on Sunday mornings and not take offense to any harsh words, because I have no idea what that morning has been like in the hurried attempt to get to church.)
I do know, though, that I will have more opportunities, and you will too. My prayer is that we both will make the most of every opportunity.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesian 5:15-16 (NIV)