Today’s chaos is tomorrow’s memory

By Judy Brandon: CNJ Relgion Columnist

One day several years ago, I saw an incident in the grocery store that made my heart sad. A mother and father were shopping with their two school-age children and a toddler. The father pushed the cart as the mother barked out orders: “Stay in line!” “Don’t touch anything!” The toddler riding in the basket started to fumble with a package of crackers.
The father picked up her little chubby hand and slapped it three or four times. Of course the child screamed.

The mother remarked, “You ain’t hungry. Don’t touch!” The two other little children just walked on ahead, trying to make the best of a terrible situation. I thought: Great summer for those little ones. I feel sorry for them all year!

In contrast, I am reminded of the scene that Buffy, Annie and I witnessed in Clovis one summer about five years ago.

We were at a drive-through restaurant ordering breakfast. While we were in line, we noticed a family in an SUV loaded down with vacation paraphernalia parking at the side of the drive-through. Atop the vehicle was a folded-up baby stroller, coolers, two little bicycles and suitcases. The first to get out was a little girl about 7, holding a black dachshund.
Then she led the dog toward the grass that lined the parking lot.

Next, the mother stepped with a baby, diaper bag over one shoulder and a small portable cooler in the other hand. Then a boy about 10 leaped out of the driver’s side in the back. He held a leash with a chubby English bulldog and led this wobbly, hefty swaggering dog to the grass where his sister stood with the dachshund.

Last to come was dad. He got out and lifted up a toddler and set him down on the pavement. This little guy ran to the grass to meet his brother and sister. Then the father held the leashes while the two older children headed into the restaurant to be with their mother.

That left the dad sitting on the grass with two dogs and a toddler. After about five minutes, the mom and children joined him with everyone’s breakfast. Food was passed around for everyone. Every so often, the kids would give a little food to one of the dogs.

But as confusing, amazing and chaotic as this seemed, everyone was happy. It looked like disorder and chaos to anyone watching, but everyone in the young family was laughing and talking.

Annie, Buffy and I watched. To see them together unaffected by the confusion was a refreshing sight for us. Annie said, “You know, Mom, those kids will remember this for a long time.”

Looking at our lives, we see that somehow seconds turn into minutes, minutes to hours and hours to days, days to years … and we wake up one day and find our children grown. We are frail and parents do make mistakes.

Yet, after watching this scene and then seeing the grocery store incident, I had a renewed awareness: Our children are gifts from God, and they should be treated with love, honor and respect.

I want to tell those parents in the grocery store that they will not pass this way again. How sad to miss the opportunity when children are young.
Even sadder is to look back years later and wish you had done differently. I would like to tell those parents in the store to change their ways while they still have time.