This little guy in the middle would be me: Trying hard but getting it all mixed up – but still throwing some stellar JAZZ HANDS! Jazz hands make everything better.
“Aiieeee!” There was a shout and loud clatter as a woman nearby us in the parking lot of the hardware store watched all of her metal thingies (yes that’s the official name THINGIES) crash off of her giant orange shopping cart into the snow. My family and I were on our way into the store but I paused, Jelly Bean on my hip, to help her pick up her stuff. My boys jumped in too and within a minute we had her loaded back up and unstuck from the snow. It really was the smallest thing. Really. And yet as I turned to walk away, she touched my arm, “I’m just amazed. Your family is so nice! You guys just made my whole day!”
I waited until we got inside to round up my kids for a big hug. “Did you hear what she said? You guys just made her day! Just by helping her for 1 minute!” They beamed. “See? Helping people doesn’t have to be hard,” I started in on Mom Lecture #239. “You just have to be aware of the needs of people around you!”
I was especially happy because I knew my task for the next day – Day 3 of Operation Give a Little – was to give a helping hand and that went so smoothly I figured it would be a piece of cake!
I was wrong.
My first mistake was that I had some catching up to do. See, I had a couple of days where the depression took a bit of a nosedive and I didn’t really get out of bed. The good news: It was only two days. The bad news: my pit hair was really long by the time I decided to shower again. Kidding! I actually love fuzzy body hair in the winter, keeps me warm! No, the real bad news was that I fell behind on my Operation Give a Little and that… depressed me. Yeah, I’ll let the irony of that sink in for a bit. But it turns out that since all my tasks involve helping other people, I actually have to be around other people. And when I’m depressed I don’t want to be around people. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s that I get so deep into my head that I feel like they’ll be disappointed in me or that I won’t be enough or that I’ll let them down and all that worrying takes a lot of energy!
Anyhow, I bucked up and got out of bed and decided to head to the store to do some Christmas shopping for my kids. Perfect opportunity for a little service to my fellow men! I needed to do two things: offer a helping hand (like I did with the woman at the hardware store) and for Day 4 of Operation Give a Little, give up a parking spot or place in line or seat.
I started when I got there. The parking lot was jam packed but a space opened up in front of me. Instead of taking it however, I waved to the car facing the other way. Here! Take this parking spot! I give it to you with joy!! Except the lady wasn’t paying attention. Or maybe she was confused as to what my gesture meant. And then the car behind me honked. So I pulled in. Dagnabbit.
Going into the store, I tried again – holding the door open for some fellow shoppers. But again I was foiled! A sweet little old gentleman said, “Oh no, ladies first! Let me get the door for YOU!” And of course I walked through because what am I going to do – rip the door out of an old man’s hands and shove him through? He even ran to get in front of me to open the second set of doors! I thanked him heartily. Double dagnabbit. Why do people have to be so nice??
Found these on the way. Scrunchies! They’re baaaaaack! In the 90’s I seriously owned SO MANY scrunchies. I always had one on my wrist, like a squishy germ-infested bracelet.
Next, I had to return something so I got in the extra long line at the customer service counter. When it got to be my turn I figured this was it, my big moment to Help! Yay! So I turned to the woman behind me and said, “Why don’t you go first?”
“But you only have one thing! And I have a ton of stuff,” she pointed out, rightly.
“Here, I’ll take you at this register,” a tired-looking rep waved me over and opened up a new line. Did I just make someone’s job harder?? DAGnabbit! (I curse like Jimmy Stewart. Can’t help it.) At this point I fell to my knees and shook my fist at the heavens yelling Why, God, whyyyyy???
No I didn’t. But I thought about it.
I decided to just focus on getting my shopping done so I headed to the toy area. As I stared at everything willing the piles to rearrange into something coherent (another fun side effect of my depression – makes my thinking reallly slow), I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me?” an older woman asked.
I jumped out of my skin. Which made her jump. Charming.
“Ah, um, I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m having a problem finding some things and you look like you have little kids!” She had eye crinkles and salt-and-pepper hair and a beautiful smile, all on top of a jaunty red wool coat.
I lit up like a candle. (A dimly lit flickering candle with a bit too much waxy buildup but WHATEVER I’M A LIGHT OKAY.) “I do! I have four! What can I help you with?” I nearly danced a jig.
“What’s a McStuffins?” she asked with a sweet little head tilt. “Anna heard about it at school and really wants one and I don’t even know what I’m looking for…”
“Oh, it’s a Disney show! Doc McStuffins! It’s about a cute little girl who “doctors” broken toys with the help of her stuffed animals and has zany adventures!” Did I mention I’m kind of a know-it-all? I am.
As I searched around the toy section looking for anything Doc related, we chatted about little 4-year-old Anna who wants to grow up to be a doctor and is adorable in every way and… “Aha!” I held up a jewelry set. “This is Doc McStuffins! Plus there are socks and pajamas!”
“Oh, thank you!”
“But I don’t see any actual toy-toys,” I kept going. “But I was at Target the other day and they had this amazing Doc McStuffins playset and it’s on sale and the doll comes with it and there’s a whole doctor kit and an exam table that even has the paper roll and …”
“Do you want me to call Target and see if they still have it?” I started to pull out my phone. She was letting me help her! I was going to help! Even if I was starting to get a little crazy around the edges! ‘Tis the season to be creepy!
“No, that’s okay,” she said. “I’ll just get her the pajamas. She’ll love those.”
But I still wanted to help! All I’d done was hand her some stuff! I could do more! So I decided to offer her a compliment. Which is when it all started to slide downhill like a pile of dung on wet grass.
“Well, your granddaughter is really blessed to have you! That’s great that you’re going to so much trouble to find just what she wants!”
There was an awkward pause during which the woman blushed as red as her coat. “Anna is my daughter, actually,” she said finally.
Ack! What had I just done? I’d said the worst thing you can ever say to a woman right after asking her if she’s pregnant because she has a poochy tummy!! I’d seen gray hair and just assumed grandma!
She apparently took my embarrassed silence as an indicator I wanted an explanation so she continued, “We, ah, got a late start on our family. It, um, took us longer to get pregnant than we thought and I know I might seem a little older than your average mom but…” Her voice trailed off.
“Oh I totally get it!” I gushed, trying to make things better. Which of course made things worse. Because I do NOT totally get it. While it did take us two sad, hard years of trying to have kids – during which I had two miscarriages and a stillborn daughter – I was still able to get pregnant and I still had my kids at a relatively young age. Not all fertility problems are the same. But I didn’t have time to explain it to her as she was now backing away from me.
“Hey, I love your red coat!!” I yelled after her as she melted into the racks.
Holy balls of beetle-rolled turd. Dag-#$*(&$#^@-nabbit. I wanted to sit down and cry. Which is really a pretty common occurrence with me these days. You know how some people say they feel sad but they just can’t get the tears to come? I have the opposite problem. So instead I sucked up my fear that I’d done the woman more harm than help and just said a little prayer that she would understand my good intentions even if my execution was flawed.
Oh and these are a Thing. I found this on a display labeled “Dream gifts.” And it really is full of candy! 52 servings of Nerds – one for every week of the year! I did not buy them.
I grabbed my stuff – I ended up buying one of my sons a Nerf bow and arrow set which I know I’m going to regret but he will love it so hard and sometimes motherhood means taking a rubber dart to the eye – and headed for the checkout line. Of course there wasn’t another soul in line for me to offer my place to. It’s only the most crowded shopping season of the year. Sigh. So I marched up to the cashier and dropped my stuff on the counter.
“Do you have any coupons?” she asked.
“No,” I sighed. Because that would take planning and forethought, another thing that I’m really not good at right now.
“Oh good!” she beamed. “Because none of them are working right today and it’s been such a pain! You would not believe how cranky people are getting!”
“And your credit card worked on the first swipe! Yep, you just made my day!” she laughed.
Turns out not doing something can sometimes be the nicest thing you can do for someone. But I’ll take it! I beamed back at her, “And you just made my day!”
“Wonderful! Receipt in the bag?”
“Sure! And by the way, I love your pixie cut! Super cute.” (Which it was. I always envy girls who have the face shape, bone structure and confidence to rock a short ‘do.)
“Aw aren’t you the BEST?! Have a great day!”
“You too!” I left the store smiling.
I made it. One down, one to go. I went to go pick up Jelly Bean from preschool and there’s always a line at the door. I waved the few women behind me in front of me. “You can go first,” I offered. They barely noticed as they walked past. Still, good enough.
Moral of this story: If you had any doubts before now, know now that if I can do this ANYONE can do this! And likely do it better.
Other moral: Don’t assume gray-haired women are grandmas.
So for Operation Give a Little Day 3: Give someone a helping hand.
For Operation Give a Little Day 4: Give someone your parking spot, spot in line, chair, last grocery cart, whatever.
(And you know I’d love it if you leave me a comment telling me about your experience! But you don’t have to:)
Any of you ever tried to compliment someone but ended up kind of insulting them? Anyone have any stories of little acts of service to share? Anyone else obsessed with scrunchies when they were a kid??
Son #3 has mad giving skillz like his mama. I came home to find this little display for Santa. The note says “Yum. Cuckeys.” with lots of smiley faces and a diagram of how to eat them. I daresay these might be the most menacing cookies Santa gets this year. (P.S. Those are pancakes.)