"I've Been There."

From Greatist:

"One rainy afternoon, I was on a crosstown bus when a young woman jumped on. She had a child with her who must have been about three or four years old.

"The bus was full, bumpy, and it soon got noisy, as her kid began crying—he was upset he couldn’t sit next to his mother. There were a couple of open seats, but they weren’t together, so she sat down on one and told him to sit on the other. But he wanted his mom. She was flustered and looked embarrassed (not to mention tired).

"Then another woman, a little older, stood up and moved so that the mother and child could sit together. The mum smiled as a thank-you. And then three words came out of the older woman’s mouth that elevated the entire energy of that bus ride:

“I’ve been there.”

"Simple, undramatic, and honest. In that moment, it seemed to unite the diverse people of New York City.

"Why? Because almost all experiences are shared human experiences. They’re universal. We forget that as we forge through life, focused on our own troubles and needs—which are actually less unique than we think.

"And a wonderful way to honor your past hurt is to help soothe another’s current pain.

“Can the essence of these three words help you make a small difference right now? It can be as simple as volunteering your seat, sharing some helpful advice, or even lightening the mood with a joke when you notice that someone’s uncomfortable—because we’re all in this together.”

So true! Often times while I’m shopping I’ll hear a kid screaming at the top of their lungs. At first, I think to myself, “can’t you shut that kid up”. But then I think back to the days when my kids were young. They were usually well-behaved, but there were those times when they weren’t! They’d be cranky and tired (like me!) and wanted a toy that I refused to buy, so they’d start screaming and crying. It might have been the one time in a month of outings that they acted up - but everyone else would be thinking that’s how the kid acts all the time and doesn’t that mother know how to discipline her child? Most of us mothers know the feeling. There have been many times I’ve seen a frazzled mom at WalMart with a screaming kid and I’ve said - “I’ve been there”. It usually gets a smile from the mom.

We can all use a little more kindness and understanding.

Being on crutches and dealing with such simple things as entering/exiting through doors, transporting things (by hand), etc. really opened my eyes to how limiting and annoying being on crutches can be. Ever since my experience, whenever I see someone on crutches attempting one of these tasks, 1) I definitely notice it, and 2) do what I can to help.

Way back in the day in my late 20s, I was a single father to a kid who was (at the time) three years old. It was a tight time, trying to keep up the rent on an apartment rented for two incomes before his mother decided to call it quits. One Sunday morning, I headed for the grocery store for a few things and stopped at an ATM along the way to check my balance. It was something like $22 – enough for eggs, bread, milk and a few other staple items to get me through to the next paycheck. I got to the store, collected maybe $15 in groceries and the cashier told me that my card wasn’t working. We did the back and forth and it was suggested that I check at the store’s ATM. For whatever reason, it was now showing maybe $4 in my account. I gave an embarrassed apology and left, wondering what we were going to eat that week.

In the parking lot, I heard a woman calling “Hey! Hey!” and turned around. A perhaps middle-aged woman was waving to me and came over with my groceries. She’d seen the whole thing play out and paid for them. I was naturally full of somewhat shameful gratitude and she just said “It’s okay, I’ve been there.”

I’ve no idea if that woman remembers that morning, but I still remember it regularly. And I’d like to hope it has made me a more charitable and forgiving person.