Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankfulness and All Gifts

So, this past weekend, the husband and I hosted our niece and two nephews to a sleepover at our normally kid-free home. I’m not one hundred percent sure of their ages, (I know, what a terrible aunt, right? Let’s put it in perspective, though…I’m generally not sure of anyone’s age, including my own) but I think they are nine, seven and five.

We took the kids to a supermarket to pick up some kid-type groceries. Now, for me, part of having the kids visit is feeling extra vigilant and my tendency is to stay on top of them as though someone was paying me to do it…a kind of auntyesque security detail. This is all just to explain my mood–watchful, tense, hyper-aware. (ooh…not a good combination for the grocery store you’re thinking, right? Yes, you’re absolutely right.)

An older lady rang us up. The kids were kind of milling about (as kids do) and for me, because I am normally standing there with (at most) a husband, it seemed a little chaotic. In the midst of this, the lady checking us out asked the kids did they want some stickers. (The ‘PAID’ stickers normally reserved for paper towels, cases of water, etc., you know the ones I mean?)

This is where things (okay, me, specifically) got a bit ugly. I looked at the stickers in this sweet lady’s hand as though she’d offered the kids garbage. This is the ridiculously unkind train of thought that went through my mind:

These kids are NOT going to want ‘PAID’ stickers. They watch the commercials on the morning cartoon shows with the calm reserve of BOA executives contemplating their next derivatives check. They’re not spoiled, far from it, but they have a lot of stuff, you know? Good stuff…they’re not going to want stickers designated for a case of soda cans. And now, I'm going to have to feel bad for the kids eschewing your dumb 'PAID' stickers.

I was opening my mouth to say “Thanks, but no thanks,” with a dose of condescension thrown in because, well shit, I do that sometimes, when my nephews reached out excitedly and took the stickers, eyes alight with joy at this unexpected largesse and without any sort of prompting on my part started chanting “thank you! thank you!” and putting the stickers on themselves, my niece, my husband…even me. The cashier laughed and gave me a nice smile. I smiled back but inside I was dying a little.

Is there anything worse than realizing you are the asshole in the situation?

So, here is what I am thankful for. I am thankful that lady knew more about these kids (that she had never met before) than I, who have know them their whole lives. And I am thankful for the dose of humility. It wasn’t a huge crime, my moment of unkind thoughts, but still, it is good to brought up sharply on occasion, isn’t it?

All gifts, given with kindness, have merit.

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