I sat on a chair in the pharmacy, waiting for a prescription to be filled, and contemplating how many better ways I could be spending my time.
A preschool-age little girl sat down in the next chair, big bright eyes studying me. “Who is the candy for?” she asked, pointing to my packs of sour gummies and kit kat.
“These are for my sons,” I said.
“Want to see my dress?” Without waiting for a response, she unzipped her coat, and proudly twirled about in a cloud of pink.
I exclaimed the appropriate little girl compliments. “It’s beautiful! You look like a princess!” She beamed.
Her mother marched up to the pharmacy window. In a volley of angry words, she berated pharmacist for a variety of what she considered to be errors, laziness and incompetence. I heard her say, “My daughter is in the middle of being diagnosed….”
Bright Eyes, sitting next to me, seemed to shrink as her mother continued to lambast the pharmacist. She looked scared. Was she the child her mother was referring to, who needed to be diagnosed? She looked healthy. I wondered what the back story was.
As the pharmacist punched keys on his computer to look up insurance information, the mother turned and snapped at Bright Eyes, “Put your coat back on! We’re not staying.”
“But she only took it off to show me her pretty dress!” I wanted to say to the angry mother. I also longed to invite her to sit down next to me and tell me her story. Maybe she was scared. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Was she a single parent, battling diagnoses and insurance companies all alone?
I glanced at Bright Eyes, fidgeting in the corner. I wanted to pull her into my lap and give her one of the candy packs. I wanted to comfort her and explain that her mother wasn’t really angry at her, just very anxious. I’ve been there in the past. I’ve been that stressed-out, angry mother, yelling away my anxiety at the closest, safest target, a stranger.
I didn’t say anything. I pretended to play with my phone.
The angry mother slammed her purse shut and said, “I’m done with this place!” She grabbed Bright Eyes by the hand and said, “Let’s go!”
“Wait!” said the little girl. She ran over to the rack of tabloids for sale, grabbed a magazine, and handed it to me. Then she followed her mother out of the store without looking back.
I stared at the magazine in my lap, a touching and unexpected gesture of love from a little girl in a pink dress. A child with an angry, anxious mother. A child who might be diagnosed with something serious. I had longed to do something for her, yet she gave me a gift. A magazine.
Sometimes a random connection with an unknown someone leaves me breathless and pondering how God is moving in that moment. What am I to learn?
In our short encounter, Bright Eyes managed to touch a deep part of my heart. I will give to her the gift of prayer.