When I go grocery shopping, I really go grocery shopping. I diligently menu-plan three weeks worth of meals, make my list, and head to the store. Buying three weeks worth of food for six people is no small task. Add in amusing a two year old and a four year old whilst shopping, and grocery shopping becomes an epic adventure in parenting. It’s tough. It takes about 90 minutes and the cart is always piled to the tippy-top.
As I was bagging my groceries, a process which takes 15-20 minutes depending on lines, a woman in the next line over addressed me. My two year old, who was seated in the child seat at the top of the cart was being two, and squiriming and wiggling in her seat. She was fine. I had my eye on her and was watching to make sure she wasn’t standing up or attempting to hop out. Apparently, my parenting efforts were not enough for the stranger, and she felt so urged to say something.
“Your daughter is going to hurt herself! Don’t you see what she’s doing?! She is going to fall and get hurt!” (What I cannot convey through typing is her tone. It was the extreme opposite of polite/concerned.)
Already flustered, trying to bag up about 15 sacks of groceries while keeping an eye on two small kids AND hurrying to be courteous to those behind me in the line waiting to use the belt, I responded, “I know. She’s fine. Trust me.”
I could have explained to the woman that I was keeping an eye on her. I could have explained that she is the world’s toughest kid. “I know,” meant, “I’ve got this. I have it under control. I see her.”
The woman let out the world’s worst “ugh” noise, turned to her husband and “whispered” (loud enough for me to hear on purpose), “Can you believe her? Her response was “I know!” I can’t even believe it. Some people!”
Some people indeed.
Rattled, we made our way to the car. Our cart was piled high with bags. We were cold and battling the pouring rain. As we got to the van, several bags spilled out into the parking lot. I left them for a moment, ready to get the kids into the dry van. At this point, a second stranger called out to me.
“Do you want some help? I can help you load up your groceries if you’d like. I have kids too and it’s weird that they’re not with me right now, but I know what this is like. Plus it’s raining and stuff is spilling.”
What a difference. What a difference tone and intent make.
In very different ways, I think both women wanted to “help.” One brought me down while another lifted me up. One sought to chasten while the other sought to bless. One spoke in contempt while the other used kindness.
Our words and how we use them matter. Our words have an impact on those around us. Our words have the power to heal or destroy, lift up or tear down, encourage or dismay.
*grocery cart image via becuo.com