Yesterday I decided to attempt some clothes shopping at Kohls, and if you have ever been clothes shopping with small children, you know that keeping them entertained in a clothing store is next to impossible, and you soon find yourself searching for them among the racks of unmentionables, so my mom and sister offered to take them next door to Target.
While my clothes shopping ended up being a bust, I enjoyed the few quiet moments I got in the dressing room without an audience. When I was finished I walked over to Target. Tim was waiting for his drink at the in store Starbucks and I located the others. That’s when my sister told me the story.
As you can imagine, Target was busy, as it was the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not packed, just busy. Apparently my mom, sister, and the three kids were walking down the main aisle. Coming down one of the side aisles was a man pushing a cart, walking with his wife and teenage son. They had to stop at the end of the aisle as my family passed, and from what I understand the kids had to be herded across. When they finally got the kids across the aisle, the man and his family turned out of their aisle and were behind my family. It was at that point the man uttered under his breath, but loud enough to be heard, “Well, there’s a good argument for birth control.”
As my sister recounted this story I felt a fire come alive inside of me. “Show him to me!” I insisted, but it had been awhile and she hadn’t seen him again. She described him and my eyes darted around the store, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of him- eager to set the record straight. Now I am not a confrontational person, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have held my tongue if I had been there. Maybe I would have turned to him and said, “Lucky for you we lost one. Otherwise it would have taken about 3 more seconds for us to get across the aisle.” Or perhaps I could have looked him and down and concluded to his face that he was a “good argument for weight watchers.” Whatever my gut reaction would have been, I’m not sure, but it would have done none of us good for me to have been there.
You see, this man’s words were deeply wounding. This complete stranger just marginalized my children and their very existence. Of course, he wouldn’t have seen it that way, likely he thought he was being clever, but he wasn’t. He was being cruel. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe the anger he has for the demons he is fighting in his own life got redirected at my family. Whatever the reason, whatever the excuse, he was wrong.
I’ve spent a lot of time fuming over this man and his callousness during the past 24 hours, and in the end it has convicted me of the times I make offhanded remarks, without thought about how my comments will play out in another person’s life. I’ve uttered things under my breath, I’ve shot people nasty looks because I’ve been having a bad day. And in spite of my justifications, there is no excuse.
Because no matter how mad that man made me, no matter how much his words stung- he was made in the image of God and his life is intrinsically valuable. This ten second interaction I wasn’t even present for taught me a valuable lesson. It has humbled me to remember to think before I speak, to be conscious of my words, and cognizant of the savage blow an ill timed remark can deal into someone’s life. Tread softly, dear friends, because others are listening. Tread softly.