I was at a big-box retailer, just coming out of checkout.
There was a young dad sitting on a bench waiting for his wife. He was holding their little girl, an adorable little thing with long black curls, maybe 16 months old? Old enough to walk, too young to really talk but old enough to understand enough to surprise her parents from time to time. Mine did.
She was at that stage of exhaustion of a total screaming tantrum, arching her back hard as if to throw herself on the ground, knowing her daddy wouldn’t let her fall. She wanted her mommy and she wanted to go home and she wanted dinner and she wanted bed and she wanted it NOW.
Somehow, as I approached them, I managed to make eye contact with her; I focused on her, totally ignoring her father. I think that part was crucial to what happened next; she noticed. Still, this was unusual: just like adults, when little ones are upset, they don’t want to look you in the eye. But something caught hers and she saw me as I slowed down, thinking, what a cute child! I stopped just far enough away not to be too close and affirmed happily to her, as if I’d just run into an old friend, “Yeah. I’ve had days like that.”
She was immediately still. She looked back at me, eyes wide. I was smiling back. She eased down in slow motion into her daddy’s lap, put her thumb slowly up to her mouth, and looked up quite shyly at me but with a little smile now too. She was SO cute. My own smile got bigger.
And then it was her daddy’s turn; I gave him a quick glance, a smile and a nod as I turned to go. He was looking up at me too by then, with this, “Oh thank you. THANK you!” in his face.
His daughter watched me leave the store, waving bye-bye just before I stepped outside and out of their sight.
The whole scene took so few seconds out of my busy day to let happen. But I will never forget those two. They brought out the best in me, and I am grateful.