Last week my two youngest boys and I had a plan to make a trip to the post office and send off the BIG box of Christmas gifts we had for their cousins in North Carolina. We made a quick stop to the nearby playground, letting some energy out first…it was a beautiful day, close to 60 degrees. In New England, when those days pop up in December, you are sure to take advantage, not knowing when the pretty white stuff will start to fall; ushering in the long indoor challenge with little ones! 😉
When the sun started to go down and the temperature along with it, we decided to head over to the post office and complete our task. I parked strategically on the same side as the post office, to avoid trying to cross the busy street with the boys, a stroller, and the gigantic box. I would only have to travel along the street a ways on the sidewalk. I loaded Braedon into the stroller, and gave Preston a pep talk about the importance of being a good listener, staying right next to mommy, and remaining on the sidewalk on the inside of mommy. At 4 years old, I think he got the part about being a good listener…which would hopefully cover the other two instructions as we headed toward our destination.
I was doing great! It was cumbersome and awkward, as I balanced the huge box on the stroller handles, but we were making it work. I had to keep yelling toward Preston, making sure he was still with me, still on the sidewalk, and still on the inside away from the street. I could barely see anything past this box! So, we were doing it and it would have all been over soon.
About a quarter of the way to our goal, a man approached us with open arms. He was, I wouldn’t say elderly, but probably in his late 60’s and his age hadn’t affected his gait in any way. “Can I help you with that?” He asked with the warmest of smiles and inviting eyes.
Now, maybe a year or two ago, I would have said, “No thanks, I’m good. I’m used to the balancing act,” with a humorous guard. It was always a knee jerk response without ever even considering if I actually did need the help or even contemplating that in allowing someone else to help me, I’m also helping them. They want to help, they want to be useful, they want to feel like they aided in making someone’s day a little easier. I associated accepting this kind of assistance as a sign of weakness or incompetence on my part. I can even throw in my fear of small talk with strangers into the reasoning; as crazy as that sounds! But, I’ve made great progress in accepting help when someone offers it.
So, of course, I said, “YES! Thank you so much!” I did have to reassure him that I was in fact capable and skilled at completing my goal saying, “I would have made it, it just would have been a tricky challenge…and definitely uncomfortable.” He said, “No, no I’m happy to help. This is a big box! I’m so blessed I was here to help you.” (He for real said that! How cool?!)
Anyway, kind stranger man had my big box and I had the stroller. I headed down the ramp while this man headed down the cement staircase to the landing below where the door to the plaza was located. Suddenly, I hear a sound that would not fit into the current scenario of what was happening. It was a muffled groan and some thudding steps. As I turned the corner on the ramp, I was just in time to see this nice man tumble down the cement stairs, straight to the bottom, his head bouncing off my box as it crashed to the ground!
I ran over! “Oh no! Are you ok?” As I held under his arm to help him up. “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry, are you alright?”
“Yes, yes,” he replied. “I’m fine. I promise. I just have weak knees now and then.”
“Well, let me take the box, you don’t have to carry it all the way. I can take it now.”
“No, no, I’m fine. Let me help you. I can help you,” as he held the door open for ME leading into the lobby.
So, now I’m mortified. I’m upset that I accepted the help, essentially becoming the cause for his fall! And, we ramped up the wattage on my fear of small talk with strangers, because now I had NO idea what to say!
He led me into the post office and I told him to drop the box at the first little work desk we saw, since I still had to address it. I didn’t know what else to say! “Are you sure you’re ok?” I asked him. “I feel terrible, I’m so sorry. And thank you so much for helping me,” as I hugged him…the only source of expression I had for the level of gratitude I felt.
“I promise I’m fine. I would know if I was really hurt. I was happy I could help. I enjoy helping people like this, in any way I can because I’m a Catholic Priest. Merry Christmas,” he answered as he hugged me back.
Now, there could probably be some kind of psychological, sociological study done on me, but when he told me he was a priest…I just wanted to die! I felt 5 times worse for some reason…to be analyzed by professionals! Maybe it was that Catholic guilt I hear about kicking in 😉 (being raised Catholic). All I could think to say was, “Well I’m a Christian, so I so appreciate it!” …Really?! Really?! Is that best I could come up with?! I knew why he was telling me he was a priest and I should have reassured him that he is doing an amazing job showing God’s love to those in need. I knew, once he told me, that it was mercy shown to him through Christ motivating his selfless actions. Through his gratitude of God’s love and sacrifice, he was showing his appreciation in kindness resulting in a caring act toward a complete stranger. He was doing Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burden’s and so fulfill the a law of Christ.” Pretty amazing!
As I thought more about this stranger’s kindness toward me, I started to realize that this is the whole point of my blog…of my hope for our new town and community! It’s all about creating that small town feel and figuring out those elements that make a perfect recipe to achieve it. This particular element is probably the biggest in creating a community that cares…a community that knows the needs and struggles around them, exposing ways where you can get involved and help. “A place where you know your neighbors,” is exactly what I said our family was going for. God says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
So I guess that’s what I’m trying to do; to encourage myself and other’s to get in there help where you can, when you can. Strangers are no longer strangers once you offer a helping hand and that’s what can strengthen a community. Maya Angelou says, “A friend my be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” That man who helped me, even though I don’t know his name, is now a friend. And I am so grateful!
Til’ next time, be blessed!