Is it still an act of kindness if it is not delivered?
A couple days ago, my 9-year-old sonshine and I were grocery shopping. At the check out, a mother was trying to understand her bill. She didn’t have enough money for her milk and cheese. The grocery store manager removed the items from her cart and carried them away to the refrigerator section.
My son and I watched, trying not to intrude. We smiled at her little boy, who was perhaps 2-years-old. His beautiful brown eyes and bright smile–his deepening gaze filled my heart while it simultaneously broke at what was unfolding.
There have been times I myself didn’t have money to buy groceries my family needed, but today was different. It was payday so there we stood inline with our groceries.
I whispered to my son and told him to run and get the manager back with the items. He was confused. He didn’t understand me. I was trying to do an act of kindness, but it went wrong.
The lady left with her son and fewer groceries than she had planned. I told the checkout guy to charge me for her milk and cheese and that we’d run to the parking lot and catch her. He said “You’d do that?” and I said “Yes, I’ve been there before and want to make sure they have what they need.”
He quickly called the manager back, rang up my items and hers and my son and I ran to the parking lot where we thought we would find her buckling her son into the car.
That was the plan.
But the mom and her son were gone. I have no idea where they went. They were gone in 60 seconds and with them went my opportunity to gift these measly but necessary items.
My son and I walked around the parking lot–dazed, perplexed…sad–asking other shoppers if they had seen them.
No one had.
We were too late.
We talked with another mother in the parking lot. She said that it’s people like me that give her hope, but I didn’t feel like hope at all. I felt ashamed and terrible for not speaking up and telling her what I wanted to do for her, so I wouldn’t miss the chance for kindness.
I kept thinking about my hesitation: because I didn’t want to embarrass her, didn’t want to cause a fuss… because I was worried about 10 days time and my future grocery trips. All reasons my mind was working to convince me of, to withhold a necessary kindness. Even though I didn’t believe any of them, processing them slowed me down.
My son and I got into our car with our groceries, and hers. We felt awful and swapped guilt-laden stories. He said it was his fault for not running and getting the manager back. I said it was mine for my monkeyminded hesitation. Both of us now processing our mindmade untruths.
So here we are a few days later, drinking milk that perhaps should be filling that little boy; staring at undelivered–unkinded–intended cheese in my fridge that we will eat because it is there.
So I ask myself and you dear friends, if we allow our minds to slow our actions and thwart outcomes for love and kindness, is it still an act of kindness?
I think our best shot at making kindness from this story comes from the possibility that my son and I forgive ourselves for our delay, for holding back what our hearts and hands knew to do. Perhaps because of this experience our future acts will be delivered with haste, as intended and necessary for love and kindness.
I send my love and intend kindness to that mama and her little one. May they have more than they need this week. I am deeply grateful for the lesson they taught me: Self forgiveness too, is an act of kindness.