Dear George, you don't know much about me, other than my name is Hillary, I have two little kids, and recently I've developed this embarrassing habit of crying in your store.
Last week I took both kids grocery shopping and spent the entire trip telling Grady he couldn't have any treats, and then listening to Grady whine about how he "never" gets any treats (oh child, you don't want to play that game with me. I'll show you never.). By the time I made it through the checkout with my whiny kid and my screamy baby, I was a strung-out bundle of raw mama nerves. The cashier asked if I wanted help taking my groceries to my car and I gratefully accepted.
You're the manager of the store, George, but you grabbed my cart and happily chatted with Grady and then loaded my bags into my car. As I thanked you, you hesitated for a second and then kindly asked if I was okay.
I was not okay. I was having a tough day. Your genuine kindness hit me in a soft spot and I started to cry. I thought I probably scared you a little, what with the parking lot blubbering and all, but you were kind and encouraging and I drove away feeling uplifted.
Today was another tough day. I say that a lot lately. I wish I didn't. It's almost like my default setting. When I say sorry to Shawn and Grady for being snippy snappy, or when I'm fumbling to apologize for another dropped ball / missed email / scatterbrained moment, or I'm trying to explain why everything feels so chaotic and beyond my control, I say: "it's been a tough day." It sounds like an excuse but that doesn't make it any less true.
I lost my patience with Grady over lunch (IwillnotfightaboutfoodIwillnotfightaboutfoodIwillnotfightaboutfood) and then when Shawn stepped in to help, I felt unsupported and frustrated and hopeless. I drove to the grocery store and cried angry, hot tears the whole way there.
I was torturing myself in the greeting card section, reading Mother's Day cards full of beautiful sentiments that I do not deserve, when you walked by. You greeted me with a friendly hello and a big smile. I wasn't sure if you were just being store manager friendly or if you recognized me as the woman who became unravelled in your parking lot. "How are you doing? Are you feeling better?" You asked, answering my question.
You told me you'd been worried. You'd told your wife about our "conversation" as you so tactfully called my breakdown, and you'd reminisced about how hard it is to live with small children. You told me you thought maybe I struck a nerve with you because you have a daughter my age (bless you, George, for telling me that and then telling me she's 24 years old). I'm not great with the talking. I'm awkward and anxious and given a choice, I'll take written communication over spoken all day, every day. But speaking to you wasn't weird or uncomfortable, even though we were two strangers talking about an intensely personal subject.
George, I have been struggling. Last week and today, you saw my struggle. You saw me. You said hey, this is really hard, how can I help you? and I believe you genuinely meant it. You reached out with sincerity and kindness, and I appreciate the gesture. Thank you for refusing to live in the bubble, ignoring everyone outside. Thank you for connecting. I promise (I PROMISE) the next time I'm in your store, there'll be no tears from me.