As my kiddo and I were walking across the parking lot to the grocery store, a teenager on his bike wheeled up to us and said something about a collection. He said he liked to collect shoes.
A few yards away, a woman was calling for him to come to her. He wouldn’t budge. I took a couple steps toward her and asked her if he was asking for our shoes, and she said Yes, that she had been trying to teach him not to do it and she was sorry.
I said Please don’t apologize. She kept her distance as he continued to ask us about our shoes. I felt very torn: I wanted to give this young man an opportunity to say what was on his mind, but I didn’t want to add to his mom’s frustration by continuing to engage him in conversation when clearly she wanted him to stop and leave with her right away.
“I’m sorry, I can’t give you our shoes; we have to wear our shoes in the store.”
“How long are you going to be in the store?”
“For quite a while, I think.”
“What’s your address?”
All the while, his mother continued to call for him. I said Goodbye to him as he finally rode toward her.
As we turned to go inside, I kept thinking how I wished the mom could have known that my only thought about the whole exchange was that I hoped her son felt like I was listening. And that I didn’t want her to worry about any of it.
I guess my point in sharing this story is that I’ve been in that mom’s shoes on some level. And my attempt to put her at ease by saying Don’t apologize was most likely not comforting at all. I know that when I have felt embarrassed in certain situations, it didn’t matter what kind things people said to me in that moment – their words didn’t quell my anxiety. Wouldn’t things be much easier if we all what was in other people’s hearts?