When Good Intentions Still Lead to Spilled Milk
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” - Aesop
These past few weeks have been challenging – to say the least. I feel so much of our spirit as a nation is broken, and as a person who feels so much of everything that is going on, it is overwhelming. So, aside from various outward actions I can take, I have also asked myself what can I do in this very moment, in the every day.
So, I put forth an intention to be kind. Back to the old saying which never seems to fail me, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” (attributed to J.M. Barry)
Just be kind.
That’s easier said than done. And then there’s this thing about intentions – they seem all wonderful and feasible in the quiet of my home. Then, there’s the actual putting into action of my goodwill.
I was prepared for a bright and sunny day, full of warm fuzzies and rainbows, because, you know, that was part of my intention. I set out on my day of errands. The first stop was the store. I seemed to find myself in unspoken parking spot showdowns at every turn, the next car zooming faster than the last for each spot I presumed to find. OK, maybe they had to go the bathroom really badly and NEEDED that spot closest to the store. Apparently, everyone must have had a lot of coffee that morning…
Deep breath. I can be kind and afford to walk a little further. No big deal. I found a spot way down at the end of the aisle. Well, at least way out here I don’t have to worry about any mishaps.
I had taken my youngest with me, and she had fallen asleep. I let her sit for a moment while I set up the stroller for her to continue her mini nap. I was looking at my phone for a moment before getting out, and then opened my door, not quite focusing on the puddle below me.
Yep. Straight up stepped in a puddle full of mucky oil water. That’s OK. Postivity, right? Always could have been worse. At least I had a car to be able to park in this parking spot. Gratitude.
I had just gotten my daughter all arranged in the stroller when I noticed a woman two spots down from me starting to open her trunk.
I smiled, you know, in the spirit of passing on kindness and friendliness. I started proceeding toward the store, which happened to pass her on the way. And I kid you not, right as I was passing her, friendly smile on my face, she simultaneously opened her trunk and two gallons of milk came falling to the ground, breaking and splashing all over me, my pants and the stroller.
Keep smiling, right? Deep breath.
Miraculously, I managed to take a breath and ask if she needed any help. In her defense, she handled it pretty well – an honest apology, no uncomfortable anger, and was quickly working to find a solution to the gallons of milk pouring into the parking lot.
We joked about how when being a parent you have to be prepared for anything, and be ready to handle any situation, making quick, spur-of-the-moment decisions. And as we were enjoying our moment of comradery, my littlest decided it was time to wake up and begin crying uncontrollably, screaming to go back to the car.
Still with milk all over me (and probably her as well), I paused. Deep breath. I did a quick assessment of the situation, determining how worth it was to continue my mission to the store versus returning home.
I took a moment to sit with my little one, retelling the story of the splashing milk, which gave her a reprieve from her crying. It was as if she had to check out my clothes and the stroller to verify I was indeed telling the truth and not merely using adult trickery in the form of distraction.
She started giggling and joined me in humorous disgust over the milk all over. She then did a post-cry multi-breath sigh. I felt that sigh and joined her.
Things really weren’t that bad. And in reality, they usually aren’t ever really that bad to justify unkindness toward others. Today, I can afford the luxury of giving others the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know their daily struggles, nor do I need to. And if I’m going to assume the motives of others, I might as well make it positive. The biggest things I have to lose are anger and resentment.
Now, some days I really don’t have the strength to go the extra mile. Right or wrong, it’s just how it is. And on those days, I hope others can grant me the grace of extra kindness, giving me the benefit of the doubt. But on this day, I truly believe the intention in the back of my head, of extra kindness, really helped point my attitude in the right direction.
I was more conscious in my thoughts, my actions, and my words.
Sure, I may have had reason to be upset in that parking lot. Many days, I probably would have even cried from it being the last straw. But that day, that day, I was given the grace to take things with stride and simply be kinder than necessary. I can equally say, regardless of anyone else, I sure was a lot happier.
It is often said that we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Well, I don’t know the intentions of others that day, but I knew mine. And that seemed to make all the difference.