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Oct 4 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

By at 9:46 am

In her recent blog post, Jordana noted that it takes a village to raise a family.

She’s mostly right.  The truth is, it takes a city.

Villages are filled with neighbors, family members, and friends who support each other on a daily basis. That’s certainly been true for me, but in some of the most difficult moments of my parenting life, I have relied on the kindness of strangers—the kind of strangers you find in cities.

I remember when I was about 8 months pregnant with my second daughter. My 19-month-old was sick with the croup, and having difficulty breathing. At the same time, I was cramping badly. While I was on the house line with the midwife, my husband was on the cell phone with the pediatrician. A few minutes later, we were all in the car, heading to the hospital.

After we checked in at triage, I was told to go up to labor and delivery, while Josh took our daughter to the pediatric emergency room. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of being in my 3rd trimester and taking care of a sick toddler, or perhaps it was a normal reaction, but even though I knew that my daughter was safe with my husband, I began to cry. Walking away from my wheezing toddler was one of the hardest things I had ever done, but I was equally worried about the child I hadn’t yet met.

An older woman stepped into the elevator behind me, and she was noticeably calm for someone in an emergency room lobby. She took my arm, and asked me how I was. Normally I’d be irritated by the touch of a stranger, annoyed by the intrusive question.  But this woman was different, and I was grateful for the connection. After I told her about leaving my first baby so I could take care of my next one, she put her hand to the cross around her neck, and said she would pray for me and my babies.

I’d like to think that in the end, we’re all praying to the same God, but either way, I found great comfort in her words over the next hours as I waited for the news of both of my children.

A few months later, the girls were healthy, but my mother was not.  Within a few hours of getting the phone call, I was headed to the airport with my infant in the backseat. She was still nursing, and not yet mobile, so we decided she would come with me and Josh would stay home with our big girl. I made it to the gate just as we were boarding, and struggled onto the plane balancing a diaper bag, a rolling suitcase, my dinner, and the baby.  I was tripping over the straps of my baby carrier, which was hanging off my waist—I’d had to take the baby out at security, and I didn’t have time to put her back in.

I made it to my seat and realized that I had nowhere to put the baby. In my frantic state, I couldn’t figure out how to balance everything. Then I noticed the woman sitting in the seat next to mine. She had a soft look, a kind look, and the next thing I knew, I was putting my daughter into this woman’s lap. “You look like you’ve held a baby before,” I said to her.

It turned out she was a mother of 3, and a grandmother of 7.  She didn’t seem surprised to have a baby dumped in her lap, and she helped me with my daughter throughout the entire 5 hour flight. Once again I was grateful for the kindness of strangers, for the city that is helping me raise my daughters.


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