This afternoon, Allyson and I went to the post office to mail a package. I needed a padded mailer, and before I could select the cheapest, plainest option, Allyson spotted the big red Mickey and Pluto envelope. "Look! It's Mickey!" she shouted, bouncing on the tips of her toes. "Can we get it?"
Of course, I couldn't say no to her. As I loaded my letter and gifts into the bright, cheery envelope, Allyson kept insisting that she wanted to add her cheap spinning alien toy that she'd just gotten in a McDonald's Happy Meal.
"No, honey, that's your toy. You keep it. We're just sending books this time." I thought it was really sweet that she wanted to give away her new toy, but I was afraid she'd miss it. So I sealed up the envelope and stepped into the line.
Minute by agonizing minute slipped past as we waited in the line that snaked around the counter, along the back wall, and all the way to the door. I tapped my foot anxiously and felt my stomach tighten. I had only 25 minutes left before Ethan would be home from school, and there was only one clerk serving about 10 people. (One was doing passport photos and another was on a break.)
Meanwhile, Allyson clung to my leg and sobbed quietly. That's when I realized she had thought I was buying the Mickey envelope for her. No matter how I tried to explain that it was for someone else, and that she would just love the envelope Allyson had picked out, it made no difference. Her heart had been set on that big red envelope.
Suddenly, I felt someone brush against my leg. I looked down into the warm brown eyes of a little boy about Allyson's age. "Why you cryin'?" he asked. Allyson said nothing, just pressed in closer behind my leg. "Wanna play?" he persisted.
Allyson just stared.
"What's that?" he asked, gesturing at her blue alien toy.
"I got it at Old MacDonald's," she said, her voice just over a whisper.
"Wanna play?" the boy asked. "Can I share?"
Allyson thought for a moment and then handed over the toy. (I was so proud of her!) The two of them took turns spinning the bottom of the toy and letting it careen around the floor. They chased it all around the waiting area, dodging between the legs of the waiting customers.
In just a moment, the mood of the entire office changed. People stopped grumbling and started smiling at each other. Several people commented at how cute the two kids were. Shortly after that, the other two windows reopened, and the line started moving again. The little boy, David, left with his father, and Allyson returned to clutch my leg again.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to look past our frustrations and our busyness and spot the person who was hurting? And then to reach out to that person and help her feel better? It's amazing what you can learn from small children.