Be The Encouraging Stranger, Part Duex

On Sunday, I told you about a stranger who encouraged me.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for opportunities to encourage others.  It’s made for a fun week!

My favorite moment (so far) came from writing a thank you note to our milkman.

Rick’s been our milkman for over 6 years now.  When I think about all we ordered when our twins transitioned from the mommy cow (that’s me!) to the cow cow, I think… that’s a lot of milk!

Through all that time, Rick has been extremely consistent and reliable.  So much so that I never, ever think about the fact that milk is magically waiting on my front porch every Friday morning.

My kids compete to see who notices the milk’s appearance first.  (The dog usually wins.  Poor kids.)  They carry it inside for us and yell, “the milk is here!”  I’m pretty sure they think Rick is the Milk Fairy and socializes with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny when he’s not performing milk magic.

Anyway, I wrote it all down for Rick, thanking him for being a regular part of our lives, for making things easier on us, and for saving me from all those impulse purchases at the grocery store when I go there for “just milk.”  (My recent trip to the store for mozzarella cost me $33, so you can see where I’d be thrilled with milk delivery.)

Rick called me later in the day.  He told me about how his heart sinks when he sees a note.  As a small business owner with a wife and two kids, Rick knows a note can be a “thanks but we’re canceling” letter.  He told me what a simple thank you means and how glad he was for the acknowledgment of a job well done.

I loved chatting with Rick.  It made me feel good.  Like I’d done something worthwhile.

Isn’t that the way it usually works?  We do something we think will be nice for others and then the Nice turns around and smacks us in the heart.

……

As I contemplated encouragement this week, I recalled another moment I simply must share.

Once upon a time, I was an overwhelmed mom of three kids.

We had recently added two toddlers to our house by way of adoption.

I was in a bad place.

I was tired and beaten down.  I was sad and lonely.  I was depressed and had tunnel vision and wondered if I would be that miserable forever.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about my recent family additions, and I hated myself for not instantly and overwhelmingly adoring my new kids.

It was snowing.  It never snows where I live.  We’re not good at snow.

I was terrified I’d be trapped in the house with three kids during a blizzard.  Have I mentioned I may not have been completely rational?

I found myself compelled to go to the store.  We bundled up and left the house.

We shopped.  I bought a cart full of food.

I was in the parking lot loading the kids into the car when my eldest two (ages 4 and 5 at the time) decided to fight over who was getting in the minivan first.  Because our minivan is awesome.

I don’t know if I was apathetic or slow, but I didn’t stop the fight in time.  My 4-year-old, Ian, was pushed into the edge of the sliding door.  I’ll spare you the gore, but fresh blood is very, very bright and shiny on newly fallen snow.

It was immediately clear that the eyebrow cut would require stitches.

I clutched Ian to my chest and used boob-pressure to try to slow the bleeding.  I’m pretty sure they teach that in medical schools.

I picked up my not-yet-walking 1-year-old in my other arm.

I made my 5-year-old grab my pants so I wouldn’t lose her in the parking lot, and we abandoned the van, the groceries and my purse to head back into the store for help.  I didn’t even shut the van door.  I couldn’t.  Me and what arm?

It’s a long story from there, but here’s what stands out in my mind now that I’ve had seven years to reflect on it.

  1. I called a friend.  I said, “You have to come get my girls at the store right now.  I have to take Ian to the hospital.”  I didn’t ask what she was doing, and she didn’t ask questions.  She came.  Every mom needs girlfriends who will just come.  I have several girlfriends like that, and not enough blog space to say all the ways they’ve been my sanity.  For this story, I’ll say… thanks, Leslie, for being that friend.
  2. A woman I don’t know saw the whole thing.  She stopped in the snow and loaded all my groceries neatly into the van.  She picked up my purse, found my keys, locked my car and returned the cart.  She tracked me down in the store — and found me and my blood-sodden shirt and my crying kids while I hung onto the phone telling my friend I needed help.  She gave me my purse, squeezed my shoulder and left.  I didn’t know yet what she’d done.  I don’t think I managed to think, much less say out loud, any kind of a thank you.  So I’ll say it now.  To the stranger who embodied kindness and compassion to me when I desperately needed help, thank you.  There’s a special blessing in Heaven for people like you.  I just know it.

……

And finally, I promised to post your encouraging stories.

So far, I’ve got one and it’s about beer.  Thank goodness, because I’m a little teary after that last story and I HATE crying more than I hate almost anything else.  Stupid crying.  Don’t like shopping, hate crying — I make a terrible girl.

On to the encouraging beer story.  Tally Ho!

My fabulous brother, Jeff, writes:

I, too, can testify to the power of encouraging stranger(s)!

Years ago, I was on the shore of my parents’ lake house enjoying 2 of my favorite things — reading and beer.

I had my favorite book and some Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, and I didn’t plan to move for the entire afternoon.

Later (much later) a slow boat came by full of people sight-seeing around the lake.  When they saw me, the driver idled back and called, “Hey!  Those empties all yours?”

I looked down, and quickly (or maybe not SO quickly, considering) saw that there were 8 empty bottles.  I looked up, shrugged my shoulders, and responded, “Yep! Guess so!”

Everyone on board stood up and started clapping and cheering for me.

Felt good.

Thanks, Jeffy!  Awesome story.

……

Wishing you all many encouraging moments,wherever they may find you…

Beth

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
14 comments
  1. When my dad died I left home the night before to go to the hospital. My roommate didn’t know what to do, so she went in my room, gathered all of my laundry and did it. Loads of it. The lack of laundry-doing had nothing to do with my dad (it was sudden, and I’m terrible about doing laundry), but when I came home to all of my laundry done and folded neatly on my bed, I felt very, very loved.

    And your minivan/snow story made me cry. Breath caught in my chest cry.

    And I’m obviously reading your archives. I searched “twins” in case you want to know what got me here. I am hoping a birth story is buried in the archives.

  2. Just thought I’d share my ‘be the encouraging stranger’ story with you:
    This story’s about swimming lessons. I don’t know how it works over in your neck of the woods, but over here, kids usually start swimming lessons (at the local swimming pool) when they’re between 4 and 5 years old. Koen, our oldest, has been taking swimming lessons for almost a year now (he just turned 6, but since the lessons aren’t really going that swell, well, let’s just say we’ll be regulars at the local swimming pool for a while longer…). Roos, our second gem, turns 5 in June, so I knew the moment was coming, THE CALL! Last Thursday the swimming pool people called and left a message: there was an opening (there’s a 2 year waiting list) and Roos could start on Monday (Koen’s swimming lessons are on Wednesday, which later on turned out to be important info). Wow! I called them back to register her and I had a lovely conversation with the swimming pool lady about kids growing up so fast (which is really part one of the ‘encouraging stranger’ I guess). Halfway during that conversation she found out that we had another kid taking swimming lessons at their pool (somehow that info had slipped through) and she was baffled. I didn’t understand why. She told me. She was amazed by the fact that we had made peace with going to&fro the swimming pool twice a week for the kids to get their swimming lessons. Ehm, okay… We thought that was the only option… Really, we did. It didn’t even occur to us to demand that they both got their lessons at the same time (which apparently the other parents do). Well now. I believe we have gotten enough credits with the swimming pool people to last us about four or five kids, because the lady I talked to (and who generously offered to put Koen on a special waiting list, so that when there’s an opening on Monday, they can both swim at the same time, yay!) told our story to ALL OF HER CO-WORKERS (and I mean all of them, we were recognized, by our slightly unusual name, by the swimming instructor later on). She told me later on (when I took Roos for her first lesson) that they had talked about it for half an hour and that they had been so glad to find that ‘those people still exist’! That just tickled me pink, really. I had been both on the receiving and the giving end of the ‘encouraging stranger challenge’ and not even known it! How bout them apples? 😉

    1. ps: tell me about swimming lessons in the USA, I’m curious!

    2. Love it! Great story!

  3. That guy with the 8 empties? Yep, he’s mine. What a stud! 🙂

    We’ve come a long way since then, for sure. Now, 2 beers pack the same punch as 8 since those carefree opportunities are few and far between. And sleepless nights? Naptime drama? Poop painting? (Don’t ask…) We’re oh-too-familiar.

    But underneath the layers of diapers and puke and Bendryll is that same stud that I fell for on the shore of the lake. And one day, I’m sure we’ll relax on a shore somewhere (hopefully before nursing home time?) and line up tons of empties again. And until then, we’ll try to encourage each other along the way. Like Jeff stepping up to let me go away for the weekend w/some gal pals to recharge and craft, pulling single-dad duty for 3 days. Not encouraging a stranger, per se, but it’s just as fabulous and almost more challenging– encouraging the person you’re in the trenches with day after day.

    Maybe the natural propensity to be generally awesome and encourage is a family characteristic? Yep. Yep, for sure. 🙂

  4. Oh! And the story of you and the kids was so sad! I could feel your pain through the computer screen. Motherhood is definitely not easy. You were indeed blessed that day to have a lovely stranger and friend come to your aid. I hope that I can be that for someone.

    1. You’re a girlfriend and a sister… I know you’re that for lots of someones!

      Beth

  5. awww…that made me want to get a milkman!

    I’m not sure I’ve done anything to spread cheer lately. I’m gonna do better. 😉

  6. LOL Jeff. 🙂

    Beth – what a sweet woman to help you and a sweet Leslie too. 🙂

  7. Thanks for making me tear-y at work. Crying at work is the WORST. And of course, it’s all your fault I’m reading your blog instead of building schedules and transcripts, right?

    1. I accept full responsibility, Mandie. You’re welcome. 🙂

  8. Those stories are so touching. And your brother’s…..um, yeah, o.k. I always want to be that woman who loads the groceries and grabs the purse, and locks the car, but I guess I should also be thankful to not necessarily have opportunities that grave. But because of this post, I am going to look for the opportunity to be encouraging, or an answer to prayer.

  9. What a great way to start my Friday! Thanks for making me smile and getting my mind thinking of who I might be able to write a note to this weekend. I love surprising people with those kind of notes – the just because notes….. (BTW, I wish I had time to have 8 “empties” layin at my feet! The life of a mom!!)

    1. Thanks, Susan! I should update the fact that my brother’s story was before he was a husband and father. Now he has 2 kids (ages 1 and 2) and 1 more on the way. He called me yesterday morning. I was still in bed. He said, “I waited to call. Did I wake you up?” He hadn’t, but only because 2 of my kiddos had crawled in bed with me just before the phone rang. He said, “I’m so jealous that you’re still in bed.” I said, “I’ve waited a long, long time to hear you say that.” The days of beach-sitting and beer-drinking are gone for him for a while, and now he feels our exhaustion. 😉

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