Monday, December 5, 2011

Random Act of Kindness

I feel like it's been sooooo long since I've gotten on here and just told a story. But this one? This one is definitely worth the time it will take to write...

First, a little background.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but Dale and I have a reward/punishment system that we started several months ago with the girls. It's a marble system, in which they each have their own jar, and, when they do something particularly "good" (like asking politely for help, instead of whining for it), they are rewarded with a marble. And when they misbehave (like not listening, or saying "NO!" when Dale or I ask them to do something), they get a marble taken away.

Anyway, since this is still a fairly new initiative in our house, we've tossed around a few different ideas about what they can do with their marbles when their jars fill up, which seems to happen a bit more quickly with Ivie than with Macie. I think it's because, well, Macie is THREE and has the attitude to match (although we've seen some signs lately of her growing up a bit!). But to give you one example of how Ivie has "spent" her marbles (each one is worth 10 cents), she used $10 worth to purchase a new leotard for gymnastics (because she couldn't decide which of the two she wanted, and I told her I was only buying one).

Fast-forward to last week. On Wednesday afternoons, I pick up Ivie and a friend of hers after (half-day) Kindergarten at 1p. They decided this past week that they wanted to go to Barnes & Noble and browse/read some books. Before leaving the store, I let them both pick out one of the $4 paperback books to take home. They were beyond thrilled, so it was $8 well-spent.

Their excitement sparked an idea in me, so, that Saturday, I suggested to Dale and the girls that these $4 books might be a wonderful (and educational, and space-saving, you get the picture) way to spend their marbles. They both bought in, so we spent some time counting their marbles to find out how many books they could each buy. It turned out that Ivie was 3 shy of 40 marbles (or $4.00, one book's worth), and Macie was 1 shy of 120 marbles (or $12.00, three books' worth).

By Sunday after church and lunch, they had both successfully earned the necessary remaining marbles (it's amazing how positively sweet they can be when they're striving for something!) to head to the store. So we did.

And this is where the "real" story begins.

When we arrived, Ivie led us up to the children's section of the store. Right at the top of the escalator, there was a table of children's holiday books. On it, I spotted "Llama Llama Holiday Drama", which is the latest story in Macie's current favorite series (others that we own are "Llama Llama Mad at Mama" and "Llama Llama Red Pajama"). When I saw the book, I exclaimed to Macie, "Look, Mac, there's a Christmas "Llama Llama" book! I wonder if you have enough money to buy it! Let me check..." As I opened the book to find the cost, I noticed a lady standing close by, perusing books on the other side of the stand, and we exchanged "knowing Mom" smiles as she overheard my conversation with Macie.

When I discovered that the book was $18, I said to Macie, "Oh, sorry, Mac. This book is $18. You only have $12, so you don't have enough. Maybe if Ivie wants to "go in" with you, you can put your money together and have enough to buy this book!". Macie looked expectantly at Ivie, but, sadly, Iv wasn't interested, as she was already headed over to the $4 books to pick out her own. Macie expressed a bit of sadness, but quickly got over it and moved on. We all followed Ivie over to the cheaper paperback book section, and the girls excitedly picked through the various books, trying to decide which ones to choose.

A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the woman with whom I'd exchanged smiles earlier. She whispered to me, so that the girls couldn't hear, "Excuse me. I have a daughter, too. Would it be okay with you if I did something nice for yours? I have a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card I would like to give you so that you can buy her that book she's wanting."

I wish I could tell you, verbatim, how the rest of our conversation went. Actually, no, I don't. Because I'm pretty sure I sounded like a bumbling idiot. I was so floored by her kindness that it was all I could do to fight back tears and try to develop a coherent response. But (I think!) I managed to thank her profusely and tell her that what I would really like her to do was to find another small child to surprise with the gift card. I explained that my husband and I are blessed with enough money to buy books for our daughters, and that the discussion she had heard about "not having enough money" for the Llama Llama book was our effort to teach Macie the value of money and working hard to earn it.

I think the lady could tell that I was about to cry, so she, mercifully, smiled and walked away. Dale, out of earshot of our conversation but intrigued by the odd look on my face, wandered over. I couldn't even make it through the story. Right in the middle of Barnes & Noble, I cried. Overwhelming kindness will do that to you, apparently.

As adults in this broken world, we see a lot of unthinkable, horrifying, repulsive acts that destroy other people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But yesterday, in that 30 seconds, my faith in humankind was renewed. Thank you, God, for the gift of that woman.