You made my day just by being you.
“'I have been foolish and deluded,’ said he,
‘And I am a bear of no brain at all.’ ‘You’re the best bear in all the world,’
said Christopher Robin, soothingly. ‘Am I?’ said Pooh, hopefully." ― A.A. Milne
It was an ordinary morning. I think it was in January, gray and bitterly cold, but even that detail is foggy. All I know for sure is that I piled the kids into the car and went to the neighborhood donut shop.
In those days, simply leaving the house was almost always an ordeal (the reward of donuts be damned!) So it’s safe to assume that just getting there had involved at least 20 minutes of me repeatedly asking, “Did you get your socks? What do you mean you got them out of the drawer, but now you don’t know where they went?” My brows were probably frozen into a permanent furrow.
We ordered our goodies, then sat down at a cozy spot beside the wall-to-wall shelf full of antique books. We dropped big crumbs all over the table as we ate, sipped our warm drinks, giggled and talked. (The kids were five and eight-years-old, so the conversation was, well, simple at best.)
“Excuse me,” said a woman seated near me, as I stood up to put my coat on. “I don’t mean to alarm you by saying this, but I’ve been noticing the way you interact with your children.”
My body instantly stiffened. What had I done wrong in her eyes? Strangers can be so brazen with their criticism against mothers sometimes.
What she said next was not at all what I’d expected.
“You’re so respectful of them. And kind. You show your kids that what they have to say matters.”
“Thank you for showing up,” she continued, reaching out to take my hand into hers for a brief, gentle squeeze. “You really made my day.”
Even on our not-best days, we’re making a heroic effort just to show up. There’s so much that goes into keeping an ordinary life going. And the work involved is usually not very glamorous.
To make things worse, we judge. We tell ourselves that this time-consuming tedium—of getting kids in the car, of filling out lengthy and confusing forms, of explaining technology to an aging parent—shouldn’t be a big deal. We marvel at people who do-it-all with grace and confidence. We’re impatient with our frustrations and keep a lot of it to ourselves. This pattern locks in a false belief, a shameful conviction that we’re inferior to “everyone else.”
I was just going about the business of being me that day when I walked into the donut shop. I’m pretty sure I didn’t feel praise-worthy.
But someone else told me otherwise.
Have you ever been moved by kind words from someone you didn’t really know?
Even if you don’t remember all of the details, you probably remember how you felt inside, because the effect of noticing is potent.
Ultimately, I aspire to be the kind of person who sees my false beliefs and unfair self-judgments and dissolves them all with inquiry, love, and humor. On my way to getting there, though, I want to practice something else that comes a little more easily—noticing when someone else is doing something ordinary and yet extraordinary. Calling out something they likely take for granted.
Whether they’re a stranger or someone close to you, I want to do more of telling people, “You made my day just by being you.”
Will you join me?
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