Recently while waiting in the check-out line at a store, I found out why the people in front of me were purchasing some stuffed animals.
Following the cashier's friendly question about the reason for their purchase, the fellow shopper replied, "My best friend was killed in a car accident this morning. These are for her children."
Immediately, the mood turned somber as the cashier politely responded, and I listened in.
My heart ached immediately for this lady having just lost a good friend and for the loss in general of a young wife and mother. My transaction went quickly and I followed behind the couple as we exited the store. I wanted to do something, but didn't know what I, a stranger, could possibly do for this grieving friend. I thought about offering money towards the toys they had just purchased, but that didn't feel right. Instead, I remembered a $50 gift card I had in my wallet and I thought, "She can buy a new outfit to wear to her dear friend's funeral."
I knew the feeling I was experiencing — there was no doubt it was a good thought and a positive intention. However, no sooner had the thought entered my mind when I immediately began thinking of all the reasons not to heed it.
"They'll think I am intruding."
"It might be an awkward exchange."
"They look as though they are in a hurry."
As if I needed any further evidence of an obvious prompting, their car was parked just a couple of cars away from my own. As they unlocked their car door, I retrieved my wallet from my bag, and just as I grabbed hold of the gift card, they unexpectedly pulled straight forward through the parking spot rather than slowly reversing like I had imagined they would.
The moment was over and the situation had passed! My undeniable prompting to do something kind and loving towards a grieving stranger was left undone.
I climbed into my car, and was greeted by my cheerful 12-year-old son. I immediately began to cry as I recounted to him the missed opportunity to do something kind because I let doubts cloud my mind.
Through tears, I explained to him how easy for me and how memorable it would have been for the stranger had I reached out to her, and been so randomly kind in the midst of her horrible day.
For days I thought of the mourning friend at Target and shed tears over her loss, and my own weakness. My only salve being that upon returning home from the store, I sent a teary and sappy text to my own best friend whose life was spared in a car accident that took the life of her mother almost two decades ago. I told her I loved her and was blessed to have her in my life. If I couldn't help a stranger in the midst of losing her best friend, I'd at least tell mine I loved her.
I wish I could say that I somehow was able to eventually do something kind for this particular lady, but I can't. She is gone and, though she is really nothing more than a stranger to me, she taught me a valuable lesson for which I will always be grateful.
C.R. Gibson penned the following words that were quoted by President Thomas S. Monson at the April 2014 general conference:
I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I have never yet
Felt a twinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
I understand well that twinge of reget, and resolve next time to act on what I believe was a prompting from the Holy Ghost. I regret that on such a sad day in this lady's life she doesn't have a random act of kindness from me to remember. I know my simple gesture wouldn't have dulled her pain, but for a moment it may have made her smile.
I thank her for unknowingly teaching me a valuable lesson, I promise never to forget.
Tiffany Sowby and her husband, Mike, are the parents of five children, 5-15. Tiffany loves the laundry five children generate, but could do without the sticky floors and dirty dishes.
She blogs at www.ourmostofthetimehappyfamily.blogspot.com