Last evening I ventured to a store where I don’t much care to shop, but needed something that they carry and I’ve been unable to locate elsewhere (I did think on the way home that I should check Target – it’s possible they carry these specialty pet items). ANYWAY,..
Since I was there, I made my way into the craft aisle to grab some of those brightly-colored rubber bands to make some friendship bracelets for my grandchildren in their school colors (their request!).
After snagging the color assortments I wanted, I veered out of that aisle and heard a sharp-tongued woman chastising what I assumed to be a child.
Now, this kind of behavior isn’t unusual in this particular store, and I’ll admit that I’ve been known to joke that if you DON’T hear a ruckus like this, you really weren’t in that store… (I’m working on not affirming that, for the sake of the children involved).
As I passed the source of the noise I saw a woman in her 30’s shrieking at a young girl who was hanging her head and wishing the tirade would stop. All kinds of “if you weren’t so thoughtless” and “how dare you!” statements were being hurled at this child who was heavy, awkward and about 8 years old. I heard the words “stupid” and “dumb”, too…
I wanted to do something; I wanted to say something. But I didn’t, and I felt powerless to intervene in that terrible situation, so I pushed on toward the pet supplies, which was the only reason I was in this store in the first place.
About 30 minutes later as I checked out, I again had the opportunity to run into this child with her harping mother, and I again hid behind my instinct: “don’t get involved”, so I quietly sent the child and her mother love and peace, and left the store.
I’m pondering the lesson for me as these people and this experience opened and closed my shopping interaction at this store. I’ve been aggravated at my kids, and all of us have snapped at our kids (or spouses) in public and wished we hadn’t, but this sustained tirade is outside the norm for most of us (at least I hope so).
The lesson is likely less about what, if anything, I could or should have done in that circumstance and more likely an opportunity for me to think about how this interaction can serve to teach or inform my work. It could be a nudge that my project (“When Aliens Take Your Friends,…”) has a wider application or could be expanded; it could be a wake up call for me to pay more attention to situations close to me, where I could have a gentle conversation that might help, or it could be something entirely different.
The meaning will come, and hopefully in gentler form than the initial call to pay attention.
Have you ever experienced a situation in public like this? If so, how did you respond, or wish you had responded?