Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Lesson From the Father in the Elevator and the Grocery Store this Afternoon

Today was super busy: studying, Mass, lunch with friends, a visit to a grant competition for our older son and then the fitness center, where I haven't been in more than a week. Tomorrow looks even busier.

I am at the time in my school year when nearly every 15-minute block of my days is scheduled. And so I was a bit annoyed when I walked past the dawdling little girl and into the elevator from the swimming pool at my fitness center this afternoon. I do not think my annoyance showed on my face, but my hunch is my stride to the back of the elevator said: I'm in a hurry. I have 30 minutes for grocery shopping after this and then my own school work and my lesson plans at home. And somewhere in there I have to take a midterm online.

Her father was waiting inside the elevator for her with her little brother. "Come on now," he called to her gently. "We are all ready to go." Then he turned to me and said barely above a whisper. "Special needs child."

"Your daughter?" I asked. "Yes," he said. I nodded.

What I wanted to say was: I am sorry for my rushing into the elevator so intently as if where I have been and need to go today is so much important than the work you are doing right now: being present to your children, taking them swimming, waiting sweetly for the older child and managing a little boy who looks to be no more than three.  I teach children just like your daughter every day and I should know better. I should pay attention. I should stop being so self-involved. I should slow down and take a look at what is right in front of me.

I did not say any of that. Instead, while the dad patiently waited, I started to talk to the little boy about the elevator buttons. His older sister got into the elevator. The little boy pushed the button to the second floor. We all made it upstairs and then after I was dressed,  I took the elevator to the first floor to the grocery store. Again, I saw him the father this time with groceries but with the same patient loving gaze on his children. Then I understood that this man was put in front of me to remind me - more than once - that my life has got to be more than rushing from one place to another, than dividing my days into 15-minute blocks.