When you return from a long road trip with two young children, the last thing you want to discover is that your oldest has pink eye. Inevitably, somewhere between “kissing baby” and the poke-sister-in-the-eye trick, you will lose your mind in trying to confine the infection to just one child. Tears will be shed, sleep will be lost, and you will offer a prayer of thanksgiving for antibiotics.
And, if you are very lucky, you will regain your sanity just in time for your youngest to start rubbing her eyes.
Last week, in the midst of endless eye drops and errands, I considered all the hardship that young parents face. Many days it feels as though we wake up bracing ourselves for war. Who will be sick? How will I meet my child’s unspoken needs? Can I control all of the emotions that I will encounter today? It always amazes me how a poor night of sleep can derail our best intentions.
A moment at the local pharmacy this week, however, challenged me to consider my struggles in a new way. During my second prescription pick-up, I noticed an older gentleman behind me in line. He wore a back brace and rested his aged body against a metal cane. The words Army Veteran on his hat made me smile with the kind of gratitude that transcends words.
As I moved aside to wait for my order, I observed his softened posture at the sight of my daughter’s eyes. “She sure is beautiful.” It seemed that I was the stranger in this circumstance, as the workers all knew the man by name.
“That’ll be $2.52, sir.”
With tender care, the veteran flipped through countless identification cards and retrieved a five-dollar bill from his simple plastic wallet. He did not appear to have any credit or debit cards, and I noticed that, with the exception of his change from the transaction, only a single ten-dollar bill remained in his possession.
“Here you go, sweetheart. Now don’t spend it all in one place!”
With a mostly toothless grin and an air of life wisdom, the man handed my daughter one of the dollar bills he had just been given. He lingered only for a moment, and somehow I mustered a word of thanks in the midst of sheer astonishment.
As I drove home that day, I found my own eyes pink and welling with tears. A stranger’s act of kindness inspired me to revisit my own difficulties. The selfless sacrifices we make each day as parents don’t have to be grand to be far-reaching, and the answer should always be love.
I am reminded that I am still learning – from teachers known and unknown. No hard time lasts forever. And, if we look closely, we can see this promise sweetly marching in the eyes of our children.