I had first noticed the mother on the train because I heard her shout "Stop it!". As you can imagine, most heads turned to the source of the problem. Instantly I noticed a little two year old girl having a full-out tantrum on the seat of the train, kicking against the glass and wailing.
Yelling at kids always makes me feel dark on the inside. It never sits right with me. Which is not to say that I've never yelled or snapped at my child - because I totally have. But it doesn't make me feel good. I hate to be a part of it, and it makes me so sad to see other parents losing their cool with their child.
I continued to watch the scene. The mother struggled to restrain her feisty little one. She didn't yell anything else, just held her arms firmly around a wiggling child who appeared determined to kick the window out of its pane. Crying and shrieking ensued from the toddler. I watched the mother stare out the window, fighting back tears of embarrassment and frustration.
Her tears are what really got me. I could just feel what she was going through. The entire family was exhausted from a long day, and for reasons unknown to me, the mother had used up all her patience in that moment. She wasn't a bad person for snapping. She was just having a bad moment. Now she was feeling the embarrassment of losing her cool in public, on top of frustration and probable self-disappointment of not controlling her child's tantrum. I can only imagine that right then that she was feeling like she wasn't being a "good enough" mother.
Maybe there was a reason that this experience was resonating so deeply in my heart, because I really mean that I could just feel the conflicted emotions of this mother's heart in my own. As soon as I saw the mother holding back tears, I immediately started to pray for her. I ask Heavenly Father to bless her with a better day and happier moments, and that someone later would give her some much needed service.
It wasn't too long before I felt nudges in my own heart that I could do something about it.
As much as I love serving, I fully admit that I was scared to do anything. I was scared that I would be turned away if I tried to help out. In my pitiful defense, service is my "love language", and it affects me a whole lot when my service is "dismissed" by someone. Luckily for us all, God is patient, and frankly pointed out to me that Christ is always kind and serving, and to this day, people can be pretty awful to Him. So, He pointed out to me, I didn't have much of an excuse to not do something kind for this woman. As I wondered what I could possibly do for her, my mind was inspired with an idea.
I moved seats near to the mother moments before my train stop arrived. I vocally admired her sleeping chunky baby, and waved at the little tantrum thrower. At this point, the little girl had worn herself out, and only stared back at me. The mother herself looked tired, but was pleasant to make small talk with.
As my train stop arrived, I stood and gave her some parting words. "You're doing a good job, mother." I said, with as much sincerity as I could muster.
She looked at me with a little surprise, and thanked me.
It was over.
I stepped off the train onto the platform with a final look over my shoulder to watch the outcome.
This is what I saw before me. The mother had leaned in to her daughter, and was softly speaking into her hair . I couldn't make out most of what she said, but I caught "I love you", as her child snuggled in a little closer.
Truthfully friends, it made me feel really good for that little family. I knew that they were going to have a better day.
This experience was special for me. In fact, I can't remember any other time when I've played the role of a stranger leaving kind words of encouragement. Which is something I should work on. I think it would be wonderful if we could all aim to be a little more "watchful" of those strangers around us. To be more watchful of their situations, and aim to help out in some small way. Like to be more careful to watch and understand the stressed out parent before we're quick to mentally punish her.
As humans, we seek for understanding and love. I think we'll find it in abundance if we're deliberate to share it.