94-Year-Old retired judge, Keith Davison was married to his wife for 66 years before she lost her battle with cancer. After her death, Keith was left alone for the first time in decades. The silence in the house left him feeling lost and lonely.
That's when he got an idea. He decided to fill the silence with a lot of noice. Keith made plans to install an in-ground swimming pool at his house for the entire neighborhood. This way he would have some company and the neighborhood children would have a place to play during the summers.
Keith has now filled his silence with laughter. Keith doesn't have any biological grandchildren, but all the kids in the neighborhood call themselves his adopted grandkids. What a sweet gesture and a great way to give back to the community!
At 9 months pregnant, Cait was supposed to be taking it easy. But good luck explaining that to the 2 littles ones she already had. Her son, Leo, was prone to tantrums of epic proportions and would later be diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder. And on this particular day, Cait had taken her kids to the pool where her son's meltdown had just about driven her to her breaking point. That's when a complete stranger decided to march over and say something to the stressed, exhausted and very pregnant mom. And it's something Cait has never forgotten!
It was the middle of summer, and happened to be the height of Leo's challenging behavior. So, super pregnant Cait packed up her 19-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son, plus all the gear that went along, and headed to the pool to try to let the kids burn off some energy. Cait was sweaty and exhausted by the time she'd lugged everyone and everything from the car, through the facility and to the pool outback.
Her daughter, T, was thrilled to be at the pool, but Leo almost immediately went into one of his fits, which Cait describes as typically being "loud, long, wild, and all-too-often public." He's a sweet and gifted boy, but he'd not yet been diagnosed with, and the exhausted Cait says she was thinking to herself:
"Why? Why? What am I doing wrong that this keeps happening?”
While the other moms at the pool politely tried to pretend not to notice her son's meltdown, Cait tried to do her best to stay calm and to get Leo to regroup. She warned they'd be leaving the pool if he didn't get his behavior under control.
But all of her attempts were in vain -- the tantrum only got worse.
Cait desperately tried to hide how embarrassed and disappointed she was. There was nothing left to do but to follow through on her threat to head back home. Leo thrashed violently as the pregnant mom struggled to scoop him up, and gather their things. And that's when a woman she'd never met called out to her.
"I hesitated. I was embarrassed. I was furious. I was trying, desperately, not to cry," Cait says on her blog. "I just wanted to go home. Reluctantly, I looked up and met her eyes."
The stranger rushed over from across the pool to say THIS:
“Bravo, mama! Bra-VO! No one here will say this to you, but you are doing the right thing. You’ve got this. Good job, Mom!”
The woman finished by clapping, then turned and walked away after the surprised Cait thanked her.
It may not sound like much, but the unexpected praise was a true blessing in the midst of her son's meltdown. It did way more than just stun Cait -- it hit her hard. It provided just the validation and encouragement she needed in that stressful, challenging moment.
She's shared the incident more than once on her own and and others blogs, and writes:
"Do you know how often I think of that stranger and her kindness? It has been four years but I think of her all the time. . .I think of her every time I see a child pitching a fit, or a mother who looks exhausted. We have all been there, haven’t we? And some of us have been there more than others."
Cait is right -- we have all been "there." For Cait, it was her son's meltdown, but maybe "there" is something different for you. Maybe it was your card getting declined at the register because you were struggling to make ends meet. Maybe it was a bad day because of a fight or falling out with a loved one. Maybe it was just a time in life when everything seemed to be going wrong.
Too often these types of moments are met with judgement. But surely the kind words from the woman at the pool is precisely what God intended in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 where we are told to encourage one another and build one another up.
Please share this story with anyone you know who has "been there" or is "there" now. And the next time you see a stranger who's clearly struggling, keep in mind just how far a kind word can go!