I had the most beautiful experience this past fall. After church, my 5-month-old son and I met a friend and her three small children at a local park. It was a busy Sunday afternoon, with many families who were making the most of one last weekend to enjoy the park’s water fountains and miniature river before the water would be shut down for the season.
The older two kids were running circles around us, making new friends, playing tag, and learning how to share toys. My friend, who has a baby girl, was gracefully juggling the needs of her littlest one while helping her older boys navigate sharing toys and making new friends. In particular, she had struck up conversation with two moms who were part of a child’s birthday party just a few yards away.
I must mention that I have often admired how my friend seems to effortless forge alliances with other moms at the park. Even if she’s at the park with her own friends, she pauses what she’s doing. She walks up to other moms when their kids are engaging one another. She strikes up conversation. She helps her kids take ownership of the opportunity to share and be kind.
A brand new mom myself, I am a bit mystified by the unspoken norms that seem to form mom code. Especially with strangers. I’ve been a little fearful I’ll say something that may seem judgmental or needlessly biased towards my own children. This is probably because I deeply long to instigate connection with women and between other women.
Don’t we often fear because we feel the cost of a misstep is great? That is probably why I pay attention when I see moms, otherwise strangers, extending a hand to one another and teaching their children to do the same. The assumption is acceptance and camaraderie, not competition or suspicion. What a beautiful sight!
Don’t we long for this? To know we’re in it together, if even merely by catching a glimmer of empathy in the eye of a stranger, a gentle interaction that says “me too”?
What happened next at the park will forever illustrate for me the extraordinary power of taking this loving responsibility to be parents who are in it together.
Not even an hour after we arrived at the park, my friend’s oldest boy took a tumble and face planted on the concrete. Instant bloody nose, scuffed face, and bruised knee. Tears and blood everywhere. By the time I could strap my son into the baby carrier and walk over to the scene, I discovered my friend was already surrounded.
By the birthday party moms.
No less than four moms had swooped in and taken her and her son under their wings. Her infant girl was in one mom’s arms. Paper towels were unrolled, gifts were unwrapped so that plastic packaging around a toy could be repurposed for the outer shell of an ice pack. Wow—such love and generosity. And equally incredible: risk taken to reach out to a stranger. These moms assisted a woman and young boy in need when it involved the unknown of participating in her parenting.
The risk part of that equation is my invitation in this season.
For me, it means showing up on scene when there’s a need. To stop cautiously saying, “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” and instead, just showing up. Sometimes that looks like walking away from safe social circles into the lives of people who look like they could use a friend. At all times, it means relating to others as fellow sojourners, to extend a “me too,” to offer to hold a crying child, to doorbell ditch a meal, to drop in on a hard day with a cup of coffee and a listening ear. Each of us has unique eyes to see pain and isolation and customized resources to be generous in reaching out.
Don’t worry—you and me, we have what it takes. In her amazing book, Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton addresses our budding and courageous desire to be with others, to foster togetherness with those who need it. She writes:
“When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don’t try to take it away . . .
Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They’re sacred. They are part of each person’s journey. All we can do is offer relief from this fear: I am all alone. That’s the one fear you can alleviate. Offer your love, yourself, so she’ll understand that no matter how dark it gets, she’s not walking alone. That is always enough. Thank God.”
Brave one, how will you respond? How will you cross over perceived social codes and personal fears to foster togetherness?
One small compassionate act at a time, we can transform our communities. Your very presence is enough.