It’s often said tread lightly – you never know what kind of day someone is having.  A few weeks ago,  I had the opportunity to go prom dress shopping with two of my daughters, 16 & 15.  Little trips, one on one or in small groups, are things to be treasured these days.  I am mindful these times will not always be.  There are days I wonder if the little girls will have the same opportunity to spend a day out with me when they are teens.  It’s bittersweet.

We took the Sunday afternoon as a gift and drove to a college town.  First stop?  Starbucks.  It was a mistake from the get go.  I should have known better.

I’m grateful to still be walking almost two years into this diagnosis- most aren’t.  After the little incident at Mayo with an ancient woman telling me to use my legs that first time I used a motorized cart, I don’t ride if I can help it.  However, on this particular afternoon, I knew it was going to be a long day if I traversed the mall on my own power.  So, we rented a motorized cart.  That was probably the second mistake.  The three of us made light of it and steered our way through the crowds.

My legs are not terribly dependable.  And, in true Kelly fashion, I generally refuse to recognize my limitations.  So, there was that moment that I thought I could both hold a cup of coffee with these wimpy leg muscles and look at dresses… Well, that was the third mistake.  Sure enough – splash!

Now, maybe no one ever cried over spilled coffee, but I sure wanted to that day. Embarrassed, I asked my daughter to get paper towels for me and tell the sales girl.  She called the mall janitor.  Twenty minutes later, I called to the man looking for a spill.  I apologized profusely as he walked onto the scene.  Should I have known better? Absolutely!  However, I wasn’t prepared for someone to gruffly ask why I dropped the coffee or, next, what was wrong with me…. And certainly not in that tone.  When I told him (with a shocked & offended tone) that I had a neuromuscular disease and I really was sorry, he asked me if couldn’t I take a joke? I steered away, feeling awfully sorry for myself and frustrated that I had snapped at him.

Won’t I ever learn to bite my tongue? And when the sales lady, overhearing the exchange, asked if I was okay, hot tears of anger and frustration were loosed.   This wasn’t how I had wanted today to go.

Fast forward to last week.  she had chosen her dress, but that mall didn’t have her size.  I assured her we could run to the other Dillards.   Late on a Saturday night, far too close to the close of business, we hustled into the department store.  I knew better than to take in my coffee!

We used the elevator.  While E. went in to try on dresses, I walked to the chair to sit down.  It had been a long day.  My legs and balance challenge my abilities in the evening after a long day.  And, with spectacular flair, I lost my balance and fell… er, spectacularly crashed onto a small wooden table.  With Hollywood effect, it splintered into pieces.  Hearing the clatter, she guessed that I had fallen, and rushed from the dressing room to pick up a rather bruised and embarrassed Mama.  I can’t seem to get used to falling and I most certainly never seem to do it with much grace.

I asked her to continue trying on dresses while I sought the sales lady.
I expected shock.
I expected frustration.
I expected sarcasm.
Instead?  Grace.

The petite woman who helped me that night picked up the bits and pieces as though nothing had happened at all.  She simply asked how I was.  She smiled sweetly.  She asked how she could help.

She didn’t know about my previous experience.
She didn’t ask what caused me to fall.
She’ll never know how her kindness soothed.

I’m just a mom.  I don’t look like I have a dreadful disease if you see me sitting in a chair.  My girls look healthy, happy, and beautiful… Not like they occasionally pick up their mom off the floor.  It is too easy to make assumptions.
At this moment, reading this, you probably feel sweetness towards the woman who helped me and consternation at the man who made it worse. And for a while, I held anger and bitterness towards him.  In light of her grace, his reaction stood out even more.

When I answered in that peevish tone to him that day, it was too easy for me to assume he had a “normal” day.  That everyone in his house is healthy.

What if his mother is dying?
What if his daughter is sick?
What if a woman dumped her coffee at the end of his shift and he’s exhausted from caring for someone and it got the better of him that day?

And even if he didn’t?  Don’t I want my grace to shine like hers? Oh Lord, forgive me my wrongs and keep working on me.  So far from perfect and so grateful to be a work in progress.

Interesting how perspective can shift.