A few months ago, as I walked across the parking lot toward our local Michael’s craft store, a man approached me.
He looked to be about 75 years old or so, with white hair and a hunched-over posture. “Hey! You wanna see somethin’?”
Oh sh*t, are you serious? A dirty old man, in the middle of the day, on the ONE day I ever get to go out by myself for an hour?
He was. (Serious.) And he wasn’t. (A dirty old man.) He showed me a license plate on his car with characters on it I didn’t recognize. He explained that it was from Japan, and that his wife had had it shipped here for him. He explained that he had met her back when he was serving in the war overseas, and that he had brought her back with him and they were still married today. He told me that I’d never see another license plate like that again, and that I should take a look at it now, while I had the chance. And then, he pulled out an old, weathered photo of his wife, a very young Japanese woman in a flowered dress, and told me that she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and that he only wished he had more years to spend with her.
Now, this was kind of an odd conversation to be having on the way to buy a jar of Mod Podge. I will fully admit that I am the type of person who would usually keep walking while giving my best attempt at a polite brush-off and a half smile. I’m not rude, I’m just not overly friendly with old men in parking lots. But on this particular day, all I could think of was the fact that my Dad is a war veteran, and he doesn’t share many stories. Never has. But he’s starting to. And if, 20 years from now, he wanted to share something meaningful with a stranger, I’d really want that stranger to listen.
So I did. I listened, and smiled, and thanked him for sharing with me. And then I bought Mod Podge feeling as though I had cultivated a little bit of positive energy. Simply being nice to someone just feels good sometimes.
Where am I going with all this? I’m getting there…
Today, I (very begrudgingly) took baby girl out to the local tire place because I needed a tire rotation and alignment. I knew we’d be there for about an hour, so I nursed her before we left so she’d be good and full and sleepy. When we got there, I headed over to the most boring waiting room in the world (Aren’t they always at auto places? What is that, anyway? Is a dirty machine with old peanut M&Ms a prerequisite for selling tires?)
Anywho, after I took a seat and started watching the hosts of The Chew go on and on about bacon and how you can put it on ice cream (sooo 2012, by the way) I looked at the couple sitting across from me, and noticed that the man looked familiar. Guess who! Yup, it was the man from the parking lot. And next to him, an older, and very lovely, Japanese woman. THE woman. I wanted to say something, but didn’t. He would never recognize me, so I just sat there, smiling to myself and listening to him and the man next to him praise Henry Ford and agree that people today have way too much education and no common sense.
That’s when my baby girl started to fuss. I could feel my face getting hot (I embarrass easily when I feel like I’m being a nuisance) and within about 5 minutes, she was rooting and in a full-on cry. I knew I’d have to nurse her to quiet her down, but between the older men sitting there and the young guy next to me with the really dirty hair and neck tattoos, I was looking for an out. There was no other room, no private area. After 3 years of advocating for breastfeeding acceptance, I’ll admit that I still get uncomfortable in some situations. So, I took out my muslin swaddle blanket and threw it over my shoulder, trying to figure out if I could get her latched on without being noticed or if we could wait a few more minutes and hope they bring my car around…
At that very moment, as I faced my own nervousness at nursing in a strange place where I might have to face some weirdness, Pretty Japanese Lady got up and walked toward the restroom…or so I thought. Instead of turning in the door, she stopped in front of me and said, quietly, “Is she hungry?”
“Yes. I think she is.” I answered.
“I can help you with your blanket so you can get comfortable. Here…let me hold it here for you.” As the only other woman there, she stood between me and all the men in the room, then she reached over and draped my swaddle blanket over my shoulder, gently placing it over my baby’s head while I used both hands to lay her down and get her latched. She smiled. “There. She’ll be happy now.”
And she was. And so was I.
Because the kindness of a well-meaning stranger just feels good sometimes.