Over the years, my husband and I have made a habit of coming home from solo errands with the kids and swapping stories about strangers that we spoke to while we were out. Multiple times a week, we meet someone who wants to talk to us about our children. Sometimes it’s because they’re reminded of their own children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews who are the same ages or look similar to our boys. Other times, they’re remembering, both fondly and fearfully, this chaotic stage of life. They’re not nearly as horrified about the epic tantrum in the cereal aisle. Instead, they’re telling me that I’ll long for the crazy one day. I know we live in a time of skepticism about strangers (for good reason) and some people may not invite this type of conversation from someone they don’t know, but I believe that you can be cautious and aware without missing these opportunities. I love how children are often a way to make an instant connection with someone in our community. We may not be the same age, race, religion, or socioeconomic status, but we know and love a child and that bridges whatever gaps exist.
This summer my family and I walked over to our neighborhood parade for the 4th of July. It began to rain halfway into our walk and we accepted our soaked fate. Once we reached our spot, we huddled together until an older couple flagged us over to their porch. Not only did they offer us cover, they gave our boys lemonade, made sure they got fistfuls of toys during the parade, and overall just treated us with so much hospitality. When our son slipped on the wet sidewalk, the lady quickly bandaged him up and turned his tears into smiles. They told us stories about their children and grandchildren, who live across the country, gleaming with pride. They blessed us, and I like to think, we blessed them.
Even a short conversation goes a long way. Not too long ago, we met Judy in a craft store who mistakenly thought our son, Jude, was a girl. Thus, she heard “Judy” when she asked his name. I didn’t even correct her because it tickled her pink that she met a baby named Judy. He smiled at her the whole time like they were old friends. The small talk with the cashier, the woman behind us in the checkout line, a fellow mom at the park, and the couple sitting at a nearby table in a restaurant … these short, friendly interactions go a long way.
I’ve always said that whoever loves on my children receives a different level of love and respect from me. You don’t have to love on my children, they’re not yours, but you do it anyway. When it comes to strangers, I feel similarly. You didn’t have to go out of your way to catch their eye and smile at them, but you did it anyway. You didn’t have to ask them questions about the special toy that they’re carrying around, but you did it anyway. You didn’t have to slow down during your busy day to dote on my children, but you did anyway.