I live in New Jersey and work in New York, where–let’s face it–people aren’t always friendly and nice. Sure, there are exceptions, but at this point I’ve grown rather cynical when it comes to relying on the decency of strangers. It especially irks me when people are jerks to my kid.
Case in point: I recently had to stop at the supermarket with my toddler on a very rainy day. Though the 90-second walk through the parking lot normally isn’t a big deal, it happened to start pouring rain the second we got there, and I was eager to keep my son as dry as possible, knowing that the arctic blast of the store’s AC system is often unbearable even when you’re not entering soaked. So there I was, walking briskly from my car to the store holding my (not-at-all lightweight) toddler when not one, not two, but three separate drivers decided to cut me off, forcing me to stand in the rain even longer. In dry weather, that sort of behavior is simply discourteous. In pouring rain, it’s downright mean, and more so to my toddler than to me.
Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. But last weekend I had an experience that restored my faith in humanity, just a little bit. My husband, toddler, and I had gone out hiking, and though we almost always eat dinner at home, we decided we were tired and would rather stop at a local restaurant instead. We walked in around 5:30 p.m., expecting to be seated right away, and were surprised when we were told that the wait would be 20-30 minutes. We knew our son was hungry, but at that point it would’ve taken us longer to drive home and get dinner going, so we decided to bide our time in the cramped waiting area.
With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the little guy started getting restless. “I want dinner,” he exclaimed–loudly and repeatedly–as I tried to explain that we had no choice but to wait.
A few minutes later a table cleared out, and the couple waiting in front of us was called up to be seated by the hostess. But rather than head toward the table that was rightfully theirs, the guy pointed to us and said “That’s okay, let them go next.”
I was flabbergasted.
“Are you sure?” I asked him, and he nodded in return.
“You really don’t have to do that,” I insisted.
But the guy assured me that it wasn’t a problem–he and his wife/girlfriend/companion could wait the extra 15 minutes without a problem, but, as he put it, “It looks like your little guy is really hungry.”
Several words of gratitude later, there we were, seated at the table with food on its way. As dinner progressed, I tried to focus on keeping my son as clean as possible given the tomato sauce component of our meal. But I couldn’t help but think about the people who were kind enough to let us take their spot. Did they have children, or nieces and nephews? Is that why they were so understanding? Or were they simply nice people who decided it really wouldn’t hurt them to make life easier on a hungry little boy and his parents?
Regardless of their motive, their actions meant a lot to me. See, when I first had my son, I guess I was a little naive in that I expected people to cater to him–not in a spoiled, unrealistic way, but just in a basic “stop your car and let me pass so I can get my kid out of the rain” sort of way. And while I can’t teach other people how to behave, I take comfort in the fact that can I do my best to teach my son how to behave so that he can grow up to become that guy who stops his car to let a harried mother pass, or gives up his place in line to get a hungry, restless child get seated and fed.
So to that couple from the restaurant, whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for doing something nice for my child and restoring my faith in humanity just a little bit.