I watch her as she struggles with her stroller and a crying baby and a wandering toddler while she desperately tries to pick fresh corn at the market. She's sweating in the sun.
"I'll take 10..." she shouts it at the vendor and she's slightly frantic. I remember that feeling. The feeling that everyone is staring and you're ruining everyone's day with your noisy children.
My three are around me too, helping me shuck. I wonder, 'when did I go from the crazy lady with the crying babies and screaming toddlers to the Mama with three big kids, shucking and paying for corn?' Somewhere along the way, they grew. It got easier.
I watch her and try to flash her a smile, as if that would help. I ignore the promptings to actually put down my own golden cobs and do something constructive. 'Help her, rock the stroller, help her pick the corn, do something, Cass..." I hear the voice loud and clear but I hesitate.
It's always in the hesitation that we miss the chance to embrace the lonely.
And that Mama struggling with her crying baby and whining toddlers - she's lonely. She is very, very, lonely. I know her well, because I was there. I had three under three and I know the feeling of that frantic stop at the market. She feels isolated, stared at, judged, and terribly alone. She needs someone, ANY one to care. To care enough to bend down and engage with her toddler while she quickly pays the market vendor. She needs someone to help her bag her groceries. She needs someone to intentionally walk over, put a hand on her shoulder and whisper encouragement in her aching ear.
She doesn't need judgment and she doesn't need to be ignored.
The Mamas who have babies know it's true.
The Mamas who've had babies know it's true.
So, why don't we do this for our sisters? Why don't we step out of our little comfort bubbles and take a chance. Take a chance on that lonely Mama who needs a helping hand. Who needs just a moment of embrace, of warmth, in the midst of her hard, stressful moment.
Maybe it's fear and maybe it's selfishness and maybe it's that we forget what it's like to feel alone and lonely in the heat of raising young ones. But our sisters need us, friends. The lonely Mamas need us to break through the norm and step out in love.
I missed my chance that day at the market. Before I knew it, that Mama grabbed her corn, collected her toddler, and pushed the screaming stroller away. I stood there, disappointed in myself. But I learned something that day. Don't hesitate to step out in love.
I'm challenging myself to be deeply aware of those around me. To seek out the lonely, having-a-hard-time Moms. To allow myself to be interrupted long enough to help someone out. Even if it's in the smallest, seemingly most insignificant way.
Because it's not insignificant. I remember what it felt like on the (very) rare occasion when someone helped me. I was lonely and stressed and overwhelmed and an older lady went out of her way to engage with my child so I could finish something. It stayed in my mind and in my heart. It was like a deep, sweet breath of fresh air in a room that felt sometimes suffocating.
We've all been lonely, we all have moments when we feel lonely, we all need each other. Let's look around us, wide-eyed, always seeking a lonely sister who need a smile, a touch, a hand, some love, some light.
Don't miss that chance, don't ignore that voice. The opportunity to embrace the lonely passes far too quickly... and you never know what a difference the smallest act of kindness could make.
Written for Five Minute Friday