It was beautiful outside yesterday, so I took the girls to the park. While I was sitting watching the girls, I started to hear two moms about fifteen feet away start escalating in volume in their conversation.
One of the moms was a bit older, pushing a stroller and with several other children coming and going. The other mom was younger, with a toddler about two years old on her hip.
“If you believe…” was the phrase that drew my attention to their conversation. The older mom was getting more emphatic. “The Bible clearly teaches that if you discipline your son, you save his soul from hell. SAVE. HIS. SOUL. You must discipline him.”
The younger mom was apologetic, and speaking more softly. “He hasn’t… we haven’t decided…”
The older mom continued her citing of Proverbs, and the younger one tried to graciously withdraw from the conversation. After a minute or two, she walked away, and the older mom called out after her, “You think about that! It was nice to meet you, Stacey!” Then she turned to one of her older children and said, “some people just need a little help.”
I saw no blood. I heard no crying. I have no idea what a two-year-old could have done to provoke a stranger to give his mother such a tongue-lashing.
There’s a quote that’s all over pinterest: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It’s probably misattributed to Plato, but it’s a good sentiment.
The child you see misbehaving in public might have severe special needs. He may be a foster child recently placed. It may be the very worst day of his life. His mother may be suffering. Maybe she is grieving the loss of a parent, struggling with depression, lonely, abused or mistreated.
Perhaps that misbehaving stranger’s child bit your kid, or hit her, or pulled her hair. If there is no permanent damage, no need to visit a doctor, how should you respond?
I believe the older mother thought she was blessing the younger mother with her sage advice. From all indications, she was satisfied, even proud, of the interaction.
How much more could she have blessed her with kindness? A gentle word of forgiveness, an act of compassion, could have thrown this younger mother a lifeline. “It’s okay, I’ve been there, too.”
I presumed that these two women were friends, so I did not intervene. When I realized they were strangers, I started to go after the younger mother, but she was moving quickly towards her car. I wish I had stopped her and given her a hug.
The love of Christ compels us to love others. Using scripture as a weapon isn’t loving, it’s generally ineffective, and at it’s worst, borders on spiritual abuse.
By God’s grace, we can do better. Be kind, y’all. And keep reminding me to be kind, too.