I hugged a complete stranger at Walmart.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Nic doesn’t hug people.  Nic doesn’t even like hugging people she loves.  The last thing she is going to do is hug a stranger.”  The quick solution to getting your head around this would be to think that someone else hugged me.  Maybe they thought I was their aunt, their best friend.  Or maybe it was Nic – and I was totally misled in the identity of the stranger.  But no….

It’s a lesson in judging really.

We’ve all been there, on one end of this or the other.  And if you are a mom, and you’ve shopped in Walmart (for this store in particular seems to bring out the worst in people), then you have no doubt been on the receiving end of THOSE looks.  Your perfect angels have finally hit their limit – and they embarrass you with their outrageous behaviour.  They are climbing the carts.  They are insisting they are done looking for a new bath mat.  They’ve launched your box of cereal out of the cart.  They’re sick, and the only reason you are at Walmart is to buy Tylenol – but the fever makes them whiny and unpredictable. They are running up and down another aisle… They are just not themselves.  But nobody else knows this.  They judge YOU.  The bad mom.  Who has no control over her children.  Who should have taught them their manners years ago – but clearly missed Respect 101.  You get the looks.  The occasional stares.  And even, shame on the judgers, the bad advice or condemning words…

Trinity and I were on a mission. Buy a present for her friend’s birthday, and get out.  The kid two aisles down from me was about to launch into the most horrific tantrum I have ever heard in my life.  Clearly too old for this, he was making really weird statements about not wanting anything from this store.  He seemed to not want to be there, but not want to leave either.  I was under the impression he was in a power struggle he was determined to win.  He was YELLING and screaming.  And, because it was at the end of the aisle, I could see his 8 year old self launching his body around.  Out of control.  It went on for quite a few minutes too, while the mom just kind of pleaded with him.

“Wow Mom, get a grip on your son.” was my internal thought.  And then she did.  She started Screaming back.  It was unbelievable.  From where I was, it started sounding physical.  I was on my judgiest. “Get a grip on the situation Mom” I thought. What do you do though? As an outsider?  If felt invasive to get involved, so I didn’t move closer… The thought of helping didn’t cross my mind at this point – because I had already dismissed the situation as out-of-control-kid-out-of-control-mom.  But as Trinity made her methodical trip even longer (the world’s most indecisive child was born to me, I swear), I heard the mom was now on the phone.  Sobbing.  Sounding so confused.  Not angry, like I had thought.  More… scared and overwhelmed.  And my compassion ousted my judgement.  (Praise God).

I walked down her aisle.  And, while she was still on the phone, I started to put my arm around her.  And when she hung up the phone, I asked if she was okay.   No.  She told a complete stranger “No, I’m not okay.”  This, my friends, is never easy.  She was broken…. I gave her a real big, long hug, told her she’s doing a good job, and asked if she had someone coming to help.  Yes she did, that was her step-father on the phone – she couldn’t get a hold of anyone else. And yet her son at this point was calmly playing with toys at the end of our aisle….

She explained she couldn’t picture herself trying to get him out of the store by herself.  She showed me the BITE MARKS that were starting to bruise already in her arm… And when I asked if her boy had ever done this before…. Yes.  Because he is severly autistic. I could have heard a pin drop in my heart when she told me.  So sad.  So hard to do, day in and day out….

Because he has NO CLUE what he’s just done.  We talked about that.  He doesn’t understand how much he hurt his momma.  He doesn’t know how much it hurts, not just her arms or chest where he bites, but her soul and spirit when she feels like an overwhelmed parent.  My heart felt so heavy for her.  I had been so quick to label this situation!  So quick to say “spoiled kid.  bad parent.”  We make these judgments… I felt totally convicted about my thoughts….

Must not be so hasty in the future.  Must not assume I know for an instant just how hard someone’s situation is, nor what prompts the experience happening before me.  We are all just broken people, doing the best we can with what we have….


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Crystal
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 20:06:45

    What a lovely story.


  2. Jen McLaughlin
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:51:46

    Wow… Just wow… GOD IS GOOD


  3. Ruby Bailey
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 16:05:28

    Nic: Your mother mentioned this at bible study so wanted to reply ,we often don’t realize what people have to deal with daily.My great gandson 9 is autistic also but his parents are doing o.k.with the situation but a BIG challenge.Parents with this responsibility need God’s grace and our encouragement.Ruby


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