Let me paint the scene: It’s the week of Christmas, toddler in tow, pelting rain, another trip to a different grocery store for forgotten items is needed. My four year old is relishing in the decision-making stage of selecting her own outfits. Picking my battles, (also known as giving into the third child) I agree to the tattered pajama shirt and a skirt from the “dress up” bin that she selects for our morning errands, knowing her raincoat would hide most of her ensemble. I applied a similar principle to my own outfit and was thankful for rubber boats and a long coat.
The first stop yielded quick decisions, another over-the-top grocery bill, and a few deep breaths when my little one decided she needed to give a sticker to each person as they left the store. I was thankful the clerk only gave her ELEVEN stickers. Everyone seemed genuinely touched by the simple gesture and I smiled, knowing the Universe would be proud that I wasn’t at all trying to hurry her along because of the six-thousand things I still needed to do. Well, maybe just a little.
Rushing to the car, I loaded in the three over-filled bags of- wait, why the hell did I just need this many items? I buckled her into the car seat, as the cold rain dripped down the back of my neck. Whenever I start to complain, I purposely remind myself of all that I am thankful for- including family and friends who we would be seeing soon for the holidays- and focusing on the big picture while trying not to let the little aggravating moments get under my skin. I return to the car quickly and in my haste, I collide into a young woman who happened to be leading her charge with some sort of very large, foam drink which splattered across my coat. She gave me a dirty look, bristled and walked away, looking to see what was still left in her cup. And that’s when it was SO OVER! My positive attitude LEFT the building, saying a loud Sa-yon-ara on the way out! I mumbled an apology after her and she just kept walking. My face twisted into a scowl.
I quickly hop back in the car, muttering to myself, and begin to hear the chant of “Mo-mmmee, what’s the Mat-ter?” I glance at the large stain down the front of my red jacket and suddenly remember that I <CRAP, CRAP, CRAP,> forgot to buy the coffee for the family brunch. I curse at my less-than-thankful reminder from the Universe and decide I need a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee and not just wear one.
I know it is a blessing to be able to afford my groceries and coffee out, but right at that very moment I can’t say I was thinking about how fortunate I am. With keys in one pocket, phone in the other, and a child on my hip, off we walk through a crowded parking lot in the rain to finally reach the coffee shop. No one is sitting, only standing in line. Within minutes, there is a declaration of “I’m hot, mommy!” and “drink, please!” Before I can even register her commands, she has peeled off her raincoat, revealing her creative outfit below and popped a straw in a carton of milk. As I place my coffee order, I check my phone. No battery- and no way to pay for anything. I begin to explain to the cashier the dilemma, she glances down at my child, cancels my order, and then shrugs. “You can come back later to pay for the milk?” I nod, my face all red. All I wanted was coffee, a little cup of sanity! I sheepishly head past the line to collect the raincoat my daughter has deposited on the floor.
Right then, in a loud voice, my four year old points at the man behind us in line, “Santa Claus!” Okay, so at least he looked a little like Santa. “Well, no. My name is Larry. “ “LARRY?” She says, giggling. I plaster a smile on my face. I am not in the mood, Larry. Play nice, Larry. Play along with the little girl and no one will get hurt, Larry. If she thinks your Santa, Larry, you better act like it. “I saw your, uh, dilemma, and thought you might like a cup of coffee.” Oh Larry! He handed me the large cup of coffee I had ordered, offered us a seat, and began to tell me about when his kids were little- and how those kids had little ones of their one now. He asked if we had any holiday plans.
I can only imagine how Larry saw us- a disheveled pair, with no money. He didn’t make me feel that way, though. With fingers wrapped around the warm cup, I found my disconnect , my hurry, the frantic pace inside me slowly melt, as we chatted about family traditions, the weather, and UCONN women’s basketball. As our conversation came to an end, I realized my mindfulness practice for the day was from a guy named Larry who looked like Santa. I was reminded that in order to find the gratitude and love of this magical season, stillness is needed. Our world can be a big, wonderful, delicious place, especially when each of us acts from a generous heart and takes the time to match other’s human experience with our own. May you find what you need in the blessings of your day- and may each of us be someone’s Larry!