Summer always gives me a run for my money (and antiperspirant). The days are long and lack structure. My back aches from carrying two toddlers through the sweltering Texas heat. Often I feel so alone as I scroll through social media and see nothing but family vacations and fun. And here I am, just trying to take a toddler for a haircut.
I’d rather be fulfilling my bucket list than to-do list.
But then something unexpected happened. Something that would make our summer day anything but mundane:
My son got locked in the car.
I’m not sure of the details other than I got one child out, walked around to remove the other, and was met by a locked door.
So there was my two-year-old, strapped into a car seat in one hundred degree heat, screaming hysterically.
We waited for the firefighters to arrive (approximately one million years in mom panic mode), and after unsuccessfully trying to pry the doors open, they broke a window and set him free.
I think I cried longer than my child.
But in spite of a heat stroke, and my heart almost stopping, this story has a happy ending. There was indeed a silver lining to be found.
A very wise scholar by the name of Mr. Rogers once said this:
“When there’s crisis, when you’re scared, look for the helpers. I’m always comforted by realizing there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
Beyond the finest from our city’s Fire Department, some unlikely helpers emerged during my most dire need.
My son’s hairdresser came rushing to the scene and entertained my daughter while I paced in place (side note: his sisters compassion was through the roof during this exponential crisis. “Eli’s stuck in the car? Cool. Can I go climb that tree?” Couldn’t have been prouder).
The owner of a nearby restaurant ran out and offered his help along with free food for my family.
My husband made it from across town in record time and proceeded to spend the next six hours of his life picking tiny shreds of glass out of a car seat. He then ordered a rental and didn’t blink once at the damages. His family was safe, there need not be discussion of more.
And then there was the
random mom who stopped and stayed with me until my son was free. Her energy was
quiet and comforting, and I have to believe that’s because she’s a woman who
knows what it’s like to have life throw curveballs and chaos. She even grabbed
my camera and insisted we take a photo of this disaster because one day I’d
want to remember it. I chuckled at the offer—but now with air conditioning and
a clear head—I believe she’s right.
I do want to remember what it’s like to have strangers stand by me in the storm (or summer). I do want the memory of men willing to do right by my baby, even if it means breaking a silly window. I definitely don’t want to forget that there’s a whole community of superheroes surrounding us on any given day. That the people we need the most may be walking by a barber shop, ready to step in without even being asked.
This is the pretty of a gritty day: we all belong to each other. I’ve witnessed these angel acts on multiple occasions—when my husband almost died, when my children were diagnosed with autism. It isn’t a fluke that from the ashes of crisis arise people of hope. In an often divided world, kindness still floats through the air—coming at you from those you never expected, from circumstances you never even wanted.
So here’s what I believe it means to love thy neighbor: you offer whatever services, or food, or photos you can. You let a little bit of love seep out to a stranger in need. They may accept it or not, but that part really doesn’t matter.
We are not responsible for response. We are only required to love.
And here’s what I believe you do if you’re on the receiving end of a crisis: you survive it and carry on. My son went back for his hair cut, heat stroke and all. Then he wore his firefighter pajamas to bed because back on the saddle we go, kid. There’s no time to waste on what could’ve been better, we just have to do our best and then be prepared to throw our plans out the window when life intervenes—or locks us out.
There is indeed a lot of really good people still left in the world. Don’t let social media, or the news, or your own self-talk fool you.
Sometimes we just have to be parked in place long enough to see them.