I missed it.
An opportunity to extend grace and kindness to someone in need of help.
Last night was my monthly book club meeting at the public library. It’s the second Wednesday of every month and because another standing meeting was cancelled, I looked forward to relishing the discussion of a book I didn’t particularly enjoy, but that I’d hoped would garner wonderful conversation.
I arrived on time and took a seat away from the door on the side of the table where no other fellow book club member sat. In came a woman with a pile of books, a very big Starbucks drink and three young boys.
I thought to help her open the door no one else seemed to notice she was attempting to navigate herself. Then secretly hoped she’d ask for suggestions about how to get her boys set up to play and be independent while we book clubbed.
Honestly, I wanted her children not to be present or for her to at least share with us why she felt it important (and permissible) to bring three boys under the age of 9yo to an adult book club meeting to talk about a book that had all kinds of topics for grown-up ears only.
Just before the group began to discuss the book, this mama scooched over into the seat next to me with her youngest on her lap while she sent the oldest off into the library while still running interference for the middle boy.
I sighed and rolled my eyes inwardly. (Forgive me, Jesus.)
We got started discussing the book. Which let me say, made the book so much better and helped me to appreciate the whole point of a book club and makes me wonder if we could require politicians or anyone on different sides of anything to participate in mandatory book clubs so they would at least have conversations and be made to sit and hear what someone else is saying. soapbox tucked away again
The other women (generally an all women book club meeting) of varying ages from their mid-to-late 30s to perhaps mid-to-late 60s are simply acquaintances to me. I know them because of our semi-regular hang time at the public library when we get together to discuss stories. But, even in this relational distance, you can pick up some things about the folks occupying seats at the table.
For example, this seemingly always put-together, professional mom of three had not once brought her boys to book club or the library while we met, always fought to read + finish the books and genuinely pushes the conversation deeper when she is with us. This time, she was more dishelved, distracted and attempting to be her best in both of her worlds at the very same time.
And how did I act?
This Jesus loving, book of Revelation fearing, etiquette loving girl right here was irritated. Looking around at the other women and the library staffed book club leader for clues as to how we would collectively respond to this mama’s middle child repeatedly walking in and out of the room, saddling up next to her (tightly, between her mom’s chair and my own – remember, she was my seat neighbor) and a half a dozen times, pausing to speak to her across the room from the door over the conversation that a room full of adults were having.
Yes, that happened.
At one point, when he came over to his mother to whine his disdain about his older brother’s poor treatment of him, he leaned his arm onto the arm of the chair I was sitting in and I actually shooed his arm away and said, “um, no”.
I’d already offered to move over to the empty seat to my left so he could sit next to her – remember she has the youngest on her lap (he says virtually nothing the entire hour) – which she repeatedly declined.
My personal space, my focus, my style of parenting, teaching, giving out consequences were all rolled out in my head for this tired mama, if only she would simply ask. Just ask me lady and I’ll put aside my heaping judgment and pride to help you with your child.
But she didn’t ask me.
And the book club conversation went on. And the little boy went on. And I went on.
When we were dismissed, I went inside the library to check out the book for next month and wanted to peruse and pick up a few others. After grabbing one other potential read, I checked out and prepared to go home and cozy up with hubby.
But not before I caught this same mama in the library talking her middle son down like a hostage negotiator trying to do their job, not make more of a spectacle and get out with everyone alive. They were loud. They were noticeable. And she seemed to be handling it with calm and focus, which gave me the impression this wasn’t her first time having to do something like this.
Here’s my admission.
Instead of helping or offering to help this woman, I judged her secretly in the corners of my heart and then when God gave me another chance to help her, I ran; figuratively, but you know what I mean. I exited quickly. I came home and busied myself with comforts and quiet I could not imagine that mother coming by as quickly and easily as I had.
My behavior? It did not keep me up last night. Not consciously. It was only in the wee hours of this morning while rolling over and over about other things, did I bolt up in bed convicted because I overlooked an opportunity to really love someone.
In this season of pruning and this time of being in the wilderness where I’m attempting to slow down and hear God’s next steps, it seems I may be missing the point.