“Air raid sirens continue to sound in Tel Aviv.” It was the eighth time I heard the report. Does the media care that repetition numbs feeling? Instead of my initial shock and wash of compassion, now I’m disappointed that humanity still believes in attacking one another. Physically and verbally.
Conversely, here I was in a wealthy and peaceful country, on my second mission to find a birthday gift for a 74 year old man who has everything. I dashed into the hardware store. I hoped to find a customer of similar profile, follow him to his heart’s delight and mimic his purchase.
Unfortunately, the store had few customers. A family had walked into the shop ahead of me. The father and mother feigned being interested in merchandise, but were signalling each other when their 9/10 year old daughter and her little friend paused over various articles in the toy department. I heard the daughter say, “Okay, we have seven dollars to spend. Let’s each buy one of these watches. Look here’s how it goes on.” She tapped the open watch band on the top of her wrist and the strap automatically closed around her arm.
“Kewl” said the friend.
I was on my way to find a male clerk who may have some good suggestions for a gift. As I was passing the toy section, the daughter raced from behind and crossed directly in front of me to reach her father. “Look, Dad! We’re each going to buy one of these watches. See what they do?”
He reached out to his excited daughter, “You just cut in front of that lady. That was very rude.”
I kept walking, found a young male clerk and discovered his vintage was a handicap. “Here’s a knife that has every tool imaginable as well as a flashlight.” I wondered how to tell this young man that by the time my friend, Gary, found the minuscule on-switch, he would have forgotten why he was holding a knife with a device that was either an aerial or a marshmallow roasting stick.
“Maybe I’ll find something for his pets,” I said. The young man quickly gave directions for the pet supply department looking relieved to be rid of me. Suddenly I felt eyes on me. I slowly turned and found the two young wristwatch shoppers behind me. Both stood silently staring at me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother and father standing back, a little to my right.
Bursting with welcome, one of my dear friends suddenly appeared from the left. “Amy! Whatcha doin’ here?” She rushed over to give me a hug. She placed herself between the young girls and me.
I had to respect this teachable moment. I wanted desperately to support these fabulous parents. I grasped each of my friend’s arms and said softly, “Please excuse me. I think these young ladies want to talk to me.” and I guided my friend to one side.
Appearing to be slighted, my friend said, “Well! I think I’ll just get right out of your way then.” and she left.
The two young girls stood still. Silent. I said, “Were you waiting to speak to me?”
The daughter’s face was ashen. When she dared to raise her eyes, they were full of fear. I knew I must wait this out. She didn’t respond.
Now her eyes stayed downcast. “Did you want to speak to me?” I prompted gently. Still nothing. I looked at the parents for a cue.
The father spoke softly, “Go ahead, Sweetheart. Tell the lady what you wanted to say.”
Now she glared at her parents. I moved towards them to give her space.
Slowly, she croaked and coughed, while looking at her parents. One word at a time. “I’m…that I…” She couldn’t finish.
“You need to look at this lady and tell her, not us.” her father said.
Finally she forced herself to look at me. “I’m sorry that I walked in front of you.” Eyes dropped immediately.
Can a heart overflow? I felt the possibility. I loved this little girl who surely felt she had been asked to climb into a bear’s den. I planted adoration in each word, “I respect you so much for being this courageous to come and make this apology.” As I spoke, her eyebrows raised and her mouth opened. Her intent stare confirmed she was listening to every word. “I love people who care about and use good manners. You want to know what your apology has done for me?”
In the split second of waiting for her response, I looked at her parents. The question held their attention, too. “What?” the daughter asked.
“You made me feel that I am not invisible. Thank you.” While I knew she wouldn’t know what I meant, I saw the appreciative expression both parents carried. It’s their job to explain. They can take this significant experience and present their daughter with an understanding she can carry into life.
I turned and left. I had to find my friend so I could explain my firm response to her. I knew these incredible parents would make good the fathomless value of their daughter’s teachable moment.
With a soul full of joy, I wanted to phone Tel Aviv. I wanted to say a very young girl had a story for the warring factions. It would be about how courage and vulnerability leads to Love.