Sometimes it’s a HUGE act of kindness and sometimes it’s a very small one, but no matter the scale, it can have a profound impact for those on the receiving end.
As I was waiting in line at the deli in our local grocery story, still two numbers away from being helped, with an antsy one-year-old making the loudest noises possible to get my attention, and a three-year-old, busy trying to poke and smash every package of pita bread they had on display…said three-year-old started coughing a gut wrenching cough. Not the kind that you get when you’re sick that’s a relief to your respiratory system, but the kind that signals distress and an inability to breathe.
My daughter has asthma. Asthma that can often be severe, requiring hospitalizations and daily medication regimens. And if she happens to catch a cold, or any other common childhood disease, it’s cause for alarm as viruses and bacteria are one of the most common causes of asthma attacks in children. Currently, her asthma has progressed over the last few weeks to sinusitis and a new diagnosis of some sort of environmental trigger.
I knelt beside her, while her eyes began to water as her face cycled back and forth between shades of red, purple and blue and calmly asked her if she was okay. She nodded yes and was able to take some short breaths. She wasn’t in dire distress by any means, but I knew our window of an attack-free shopping trip was rapidly growing smaller.
My number finally came up and I quickly placed my order for honey roasted turkey breast, my kids’ favorite, when I began to notice what was happening outside our little, wheezy world…people were staring with side-eye glances, some were borderline glares.
Again my daughter began a painful coughing fit, so I scooped her up into my arms to talk her through it. She was then coughing so hard that she was gagging and even vomited all of her saliva onto my chest.
One woman was staring so intently that I backfired. In a protective ‘mother bear’ moment I turned to her quite sternly and proclaimed, “Oh don’t worry, she’s not sick and spreading germs everywhere. She just has asthma and can’t breathe.” She fake-smiled and turned away. As my daughter lay on my shoulder, I turned 180 degrees to stare other onlookers in the eye to show I know they were staring at us.
While the deli counter employee weighed our order, he asked if she was okay and mentioned she must have a bad cold. I explained to him that she has asthma and he quickly offered sympathy and mentioned he too had childhood asthma. This act alone was enough in itself, because he took a moment to recognize our moment of distress and rather than judge us, he offered a soft and kind acknowledgement to a stranger in a moment of despair.
He packaged our order and asked if there was anything else we needed. I replied, “Yes, I could use a napkin or paper towel to clean us up.” Which he offered quite quickly. And then, to my complete surprise, he mentioned that should she need medical help, there is a first aid kit in the store containing rescue inhalers for people with asthma.
This made my heart swell with gratitude. Not only did I NOT know that stores have this kind of assistance available, I was astonished by this young man’s kindness and helping hand. Our onlookers stood silent, mothers even, without even offering a mere understanding glance.
I gathered our items, said thank you, and sauntered past our audience of disgusted witnesses. And remembered why it’s important to teach these very children the meaning of kindness and understanding in such a judgmental world.