Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

M. Peevie was pushing the shopping cart through Target. We picked up toilet paper, cereal, dryer sheets--the usual stuff.

We passed two women chatting at the end of the bulk snack aisle. I walked ahead of M. Peevie, and she pushed the cart behind me. When we were about one aisle away, I heard one woman say to her friend, "What's the matter?"

The other woman said, "I just got run over--without an apology!"

M. Peevie heard it too. She looked at me, and tears instantly filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "I bumped her with my cart by accident, and I did apologize!" she said. "She was blocking the end of the aisle, and I tried to get past her. I said I was sorry that I bumped her!" She looked stricken.

"Hold on just a second, baby girl," I said. "Wait here." I walked back to the bulk snack aisle and walked up to the lady that had made my daughter cry.

She was looking at something on the shelf. "Excuse me," I said, and she turned and looked at me.

"Apparently my daughter bumped you with our cart. I'm very sorry that you did not hear her apologize, but she did say she was sorry," I said. "She heard what you said, and now she's crying. She just lost her brother three weeks ago, and she's a bit fragile. She would never hurt anyone on purpose, and I wanted you to know that she did apologize. I'm sorry that she didn't say it loud enough for you to hear."

The woman looked at me with the expression of a paradigm shift on her face--if a paradigm shift has an expression. "Oh. Oh...oh," she said. "I'm so sorry. It hurt, but...I'm just so sorry." I think she may have reached out to touch my arm.

I told her thanks and walked back and wrapped my arms around M. Peevie, who still had tears rolling down her cheeks. We stood, holding each other, for a full minute; and then we held hands and browsed the chip aisle.

I couldn't stay mad at the woman who had made my daughter cry, because I have been her. I have not given the benefit of the doubt. I have taken offense when none was intended. I have made passive-aggressive comments designed to inflict pain or provoke anger. I have not given grace, when so much grace has been given to me.

So the moral of the story is, I suppose, stay out of the bulk snack aisle. Or be gentle, and give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.