A group of parents and kids were sitting around five or six tables strung together at a seafood restaurant. They’d been at a sports tournament and the kids had on various versions of their team paraphernalia.
Most of the adults sat at one end of the long chain of tables. The kids instantly gravitated to the other, with the boys in the middle and girls on end.
As is usually the case, the girls were quietly enjoying themselves, but the boys, they were loud, excited and boisterous.
Whether by conscious decision or not, a mother was sitting in the middle between the adults and kids. She was actively involved in the conversations on the adult side, but at the same time, completely aware of the actions and antics of the eleven to twelve year old boys at the table with her.
Her expression was fluent, comfortable, calm. She operated like a seasoned war veteran who could be neither surprised, nor intimidated, by whatever may pop up from either end of the table.
The boys all ordered bottled root beers. A minute after the waitress delivered them, four of the five bottles were empty and a series of loud drawn out belches ensued.
The mother stopped her own son from ordering more root beer, but one of the boys, whose parents were at the far end of the table, drank at least five bottled root beers. I know. I counted.
The other boys watched him admiringly and each secretly wished it was he who was chugging the massive dose of carbonated water. It was no surprise as the sugar kicked in and that the boy began moving around with hummingbird speed. His eyes were a little blurred and even seemed in a bit of stupor.
The mother in the middle took it all in stride. When noise or activity level reached the line, she’d turn and quietly navigate the boys back down to the earth’s atmosphere.
One of the boys, however, wasn‘t spinning off the charts. He sat next to the mother, but he wasn’t her son. He became quiet, reserved, almost docile.
Realizing something wasn’t right, she leaned over and whispered him a question. He shook his head no. She immediately lifted his ballcap and gingerly put her hand on his forehead. He apparently had a slight fever, and he did look exhausted, but respectfully declined her offer of children’s Tylenol from her purse.
Without thinking, the mother put her arm around the boy’s shoulder and gently began rubbing his arm.
The boy didn’t flinch, didn’t even move, which was another sign he felt bad, as she mothered him with genuine kindness.
It was fascinating, really, to see her go back and forth with the greatest of ease from adult conversation on one side to being the lifeline of sanity for active, sugar filled grade school boys on the other side.
With just the rise an eyebrow, the boys would ratchet back into the line of acceptable behavior.
A few minutes later, their meals arrived. The boys began a feeding frenzy on crab legs, shrimp and corn on the cob similar to sharks eating in bloody water.
One boy broke off the antennae of a lobster and put it behind his ear like a carpenter keeps his pencil. The mother helped a college age guy who was sitting directly across from her and cracked his crab legs because his hand and finger were in a large splint and he just couldn’t manage with one hand.
She ate a few bites from her own plate, and glanced at the not feeling so well boy by her.
She leaned over to him, spoke quietly, then discretely slid her plate in front of the boy who hadn’t ordered because he didn’t feel well.
I’m not sure another person in the place noticed, and honestly, I’m not even sure she realized the compassion and kindness she was showing. That may be the best part. She simply did it.
As he nibbled meat from her plate, she snuck another peek at him and tranquilly smiled.
It was an inconspicuous smile, the kind that comes over you when something pleases you, when something deeply satisfies the heart, and it’s all for someone else’s benefit.
What makes some people genuine, sincere and caring?
And why do others act that way in public, but in private you find it’s not genuine but an inward mask over self absorption, control and manipulation?
What appears to be is not always so.
Some appear as an angel of light while masking their pitchfork and horns. But then again, the big burly, bearded, tattooed, Harley riding, Hell’s Angel member may in reality be a teddy bear with a heart of gold.
The “good” fronts people show in public doesn’t necessarily shed light of their true, but what happens privately does.
And sometimes, like this mother, when it’s in public but everyone is busy and no one’s watching, you get a glimpse of who a person truly is.
In any case, may God bless those among us who are truly sincere, genuine and caring. May God grant favor to those who care for others, speak kindly, and have inconspicuous smiles!