I was late for the big Monday morning staff meeting because I stopped to help Tiara, her lovely daughter Lyric and new son.
And it mattered.
I am really proud of myself – I am on time: two older boys plus carpool girls to school, two younger boys to daycare, professional dress, work papers, pumping necessities, all backpacks and lunches at the right place. (Admittedly, I did have to swing back home and back to daycare for the pumped milk I’d forgotten for the baby – but I did it and I’m STILL on time!)
As I cross the street from the parking lot, feeling good about myself, I see her. She is walking down Rock Island’s 38th street hill with a 2-year-old and a baby carrier. Usually I pass college students walking to class. She doesn’t look like a college student. She doesn’t look like she’s going to a car. Those carriers sure are heavy. I wonder how old her baby is. Holding a toddler’s hand and a baby carrier is tough work; I’ve been there.
I consider asking her if she needs help. But, I am on time, I think.
I slow my walking.
Maybe it’s exactly the right time.
Are you going to your car?
Could I give you a ride some place?
I have car seats. I’d be happy to drive you. Please let me.
Yes, thank you. And I can tell she is very grateful.
I tell her my name is Meghan. “I’m Tiara,” she says. Her sweet daughter is Lyric with a little brother in the carrier. We cross back to my van and I buckle Lyric into my 2-year-old son’s car seat. We strap in the baby as Tiara gets in the front with me.
She is heading to the public aid office about a half mile down the road. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was a public aid office next to the credit union where I bank.
Tiara proudly shares that her son was born on Christmas day. What a blessing. We tell each a little about our delivery stories and our fears of not getting to the hospital in time. We talk about the unseasonably warm weather and she shares it is why she was willing to walk with her kids to the aid office even though she still feels her son shouldn’t be outside.
She tells me she’s been talking to her dad about getting a car. She promises me she’s a hard worker but had to stop working when she had her son and she’ll need a car now that she’s hoping to head back to work. While she was able to get around with her daughter, now with two, it’s just not as easy.
I tell her I feel very strongly about all women deserving paid maternity leave. We talk a little about the challenges of a new baby.
I drop her at the door, lifting her darling daughter from the backseat as she carries her son. She thanks me. I ask if she is planning to walk home and she tells me she can call her grandpa. I hope I would have taken off work to pick her up, if she’d needed it.
I drove away in my 2009 Honda Odyssey to my white collar job at the private liberal arts college on the hill. And, I’m kicking myself. Why didn’t I get her full name or contact information? Maybe we could have helped her with…a car. Or offered her some of our seemly millions of boys’ clothes. Or set up a play date. Or maybe just gotten together for coffee to talk about being moms.
I made myself stop the recriminations.
I don’t know her situation, her needs, her wants. But, I helped a fellow mom. Sometimes, that is enough. Being a mom transcends race, religion, culture, socio-economic status. We didn’t need to be best friends to talk mom stories and share a few minutes of happy on a chilly January morning.
If this crazy world has taught me anything it is to be more generous, especially to those I don’t know. To smile and say hello and offer what I can, when I can. I was busy, I was rushing to work, I was on time, but I paused and saw another mom in need. I wonder how many times in the middle of the details of life I’ve missed seeing other moms working on their own busy details. Today reminded me to stop and see the opportunities around me to be in the right place at the right time.
Because, it’s always the right time to help a fellow mom.