I plunk down into my restaurant chair, four busy children under 10 scuttling around me. The baby squalling because he needed to be nursed . . . again. I was on round seven of “Would you rather be . . .” with the oldest. A frog. I guess I’d rather be a frog than a toad. Choruses of, “Mom? Mom?” peppered the restaurant as I try to hush the exuberant and loud voices flying around me.
“Shhh . . . inside voices. Do you see all of the people around us, boys? Let’s speak quietly so everyone can enjoy their meal.”
Picking up yet another thrown-down toy from my baby, who now refused to sit in the sticky high chair a mere foot from me, I quietly close my eyes and exhale, wondering at my idea to eat out.
I really thought this would be easier.
While my husband colors with the two middle boys, I quickly choose to be permanently blue over permanently purple in response to another question, and I hand my baby a few Cheerios that will hopefully remain on the table. I grow sick of hearing my own voice admonishing my children to speak quietly.
And we haven’t even ordered our drinks yet.
“Mom, I gotta go potty,” I turn toward my 5-year-old and scoop him up, causing the baby to squeal as I leave the table. My husband hurries to distract him, digging out a fresh toy from the bulging diaper bag. My 7-year-old son darts toward us, running in front of a server carrying a large tray.
Surely hot dogs at home would have afforded me more peace than this meal.
The drinks having finally arrived, for a moment the table grows relatively peaceful.
“I was watching your family from over there in the corner.”
I look up and see an older man with white shaggy hair. My heart starts to beat a hundred miles a minute. Oh no, now we have people coming to tell us to quiet down.
The man, standing in a non-threatening position, stands next to my boys. Noticing his smile, my own face questions his decision to approach our noisy table.
Bending over, he hands each boy a dollar.
“I see you have been doing a great job behaving for dinner at this restaurant. Keep it up. You are wonderful boys.” Smiling, he nods his head at the boys, yet his eyes remain fixed on mine. He then seems to just kind of disappear, leaving three delighted boys and one bewildered mom.
There are those who can see past the noise, past the disruption, and through all of the squalor to find the real heart of the matter, seeing the true person within.
The Dollar Angel was one of the first people to model this to me.
What if I did the same? What if I were to look past the noise, the endless questions, the requests to visit the potty yet again? What will I find? What will I notice?
Will I notice the oldest and the way he engages me in conversation? Can I trust in the delight of him at this tender age wanting to know his mom’s opinion? I hear it won’t last. Can I treasure it now?
Will I notice how my middle two happily color with their dad, casually picking up the toys thrown on the floor by the baby? Do I see through the noise to excited faces, trusting eyes turned up on their father?
Will I notice a precious baby who finally consented to sit in the high chair, who smells like baby shampoo and who will only be this young on this day in his lifetime?
Everyone momentarily quiet, I glance around the restaurant noticing that we do not stick out anymore. We are not that table that everyone stares at, quietly shaking their heads.
We are a delightful and loving family out creating memories.
I see approving smiles, encouraging smiles, smiles that say, “Yep, Momma, I’ve been there, too.”
A sudden loud shriek breaks my heavenly moment.
“Mom,” he wails, “I can’t wait any longer–I gotta go.”
And we’re back off! Grabbing his hand, we scramble toward the bathroom for the third time in 20 minutes.
But this time my attitude is different. Gratitude has changed what I notice around me. I notice peace. I notice joy. I notice what is right in front of me. Thankfulness now clambers around me. I choose to listen.
Thank you, Dollar Angel.
Your mere dollar modeled for me how to look for the good amidst the noise and struggles of raising young children.
Your dollar calmed. Your dollar reassured. Your dollar uplifted. Your dollar inspired.
You offered a young mom a priceless dollar of perspective.