Disheveled, twitchy, big-hearted Alex walked in the front door after being dropped off by my neighbor with whom I shared kindergarten carpool duty. I hadn’t accomplished nearly enough during my precious two-and-a-half-hour window of time while he was at school. Frustration and angst whirred in my heart as my productivity gave way to unpacking his bag and feeding him and his baby sister lunch.
I dug papers from his backpack while he talked. I didn’t hear what he said; it was noise that I didn’t have time to process. He wanted my attention, but I wanted to keep moving forward and accomplish the next task.
I threw some peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks on plastic plates and filled sippy cups with milk. After their lunch was gulped down, I ushered them off for naptime.
Deep inside, I knew all I wanted to do was spend time with my children. I knew my frantic pace wasn’t healthy for me or for them. But my drive to complete my to-do list, at the expense of my family, pulled stronger on my heart than what I held most dear.
On my days to drive the kindergarteners home, I’d barely have my van in the driveway before my neighbor would open the door and call out her daughter’s name, loudly, excitedly, like she was unashamedly, undistractedly happy to see her.
Day after day of witnessing her joy eventually convicted my tightly wound heart. One day when Alex got home, I stopped what I was doing and peered into his expressive brown eyes, alive with wonder, need, and innocence, and beheld a real person that did not deserve a stressed out, preoccupied mom.
It was with resolve that I intentionally knelt down to see the gift in front of me, my son. A habit soon formed from my determination, and the habit gave way to a real heart change. I’m in a different season now, with older children. These days, I don’t think twice before I stop what I’m doing and greet my kids by name with a smile whenever they charge into the house.
Sometimes the words that follow my hellos are, “Take off your muddy shoes! Don’t put your backpack there! Where’s your lunchbox?” But at least their initial interaction is with a momma who is happy to have her children with her.
I wonder what would happen to my habits and my heart if I began to show this sort of genuine kindness and attention to others besides my own family. What if I looked into the eyes of the person at the grocery store or the bank and said a hello with a smile? What if I stopped digging through the things I already believe to be true about the world and looked my fellow humans in the eyes and listened to their perspective? What if I quit looking ahead to the next big thing and appreciated the current situation I am in?
It’s so easy to speed through days giving the bulk of my attention to the tedium, the soundbites, the noise of what others tell me is important. If I’m not careful, I will miss my whole life.