When I first became a single mom, I was completely overwhelmed with the challenge…and completely unwilling to admit it. I was absolutely determined to maintain a sense of normalcy for my children and refused to admit defeat. (I’m stubborn that way.) I was just going to find a way to make it through. Failure is not an option when you have two little ones counting on you and I was secretly terrified.
To anyone who inquired about how we were doing, I simply responded with the same stoic answer that I had been using to try to convince everyone (myself included) that I was a strong, independent young woman who would be fine on her own: “I can open my own pickle jar. We’ll be okay.”
I was especially surprised that neighbors offered to help with anything we might need. I didn’t take their offers at face value until I would do something simple like raising the hood of my car to check my oil before a neighbor would walk over to make sure I wasn’t having a more serious car problem.
One neighbor was especially sweet and had helped us install a few things when we had first moved in. He had always been a genuinely open-hearted guy. He had stopped by several times to check in and assure me that he and his wife were only a phone call away if I needed anything, even just to talk. I assured him I would be fine, as I had done with everyone else. And I tried really hard to be fine. I did.
It wasn’t long after that I found myself needing help (of all things) opening a jar. In that moment, it hit me how alone I was and how overwhelmed I was. I composed myself, sighed, and headed to their house. He was working in his garage when I walked up to him, handed him the jar and said “I can’t do this”. Tears started brimming, mostly because I wasn’t sure if I was still talking about opening the jar or the prospect of single parenting. He put his arms around me and held me together while I finally gave into falling apart and showed me that he was there for me… but he only thought he was opening a jar for a neighbor and giving her a hug. (And his wife didn’t mind, I promise.)
So many years later, this moment still touches my heart and I am still amazed by how a small act of kindness can make such a big difference. Perhaps it had only been that I needed the safety of someone’s embrace to finally stop spending all my energy trying to ignore my fear and pain. Whatever it was, relief flooded over me at the thought that- in that moment- I wasn’t alone.
We all have the opportunity every day to make little miracles happen. Small kindnesses can make all the difference if we just keep our hearts open to others. The guy in the grocery store that can’t find the lemon juice may have recently lost his wife, who always did the shopping. That mom in Target with the screaming toddler probably hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in months (or years). The repeat wrong number that keeps calling you back may be dialing through tears because they are fighting their own battle.
We all are. You can help.
HELPFUL TIP: If your battle does include a pickle jar, a pair of rubber gloves works well to give you enough traction to open the jar.