Friday, March 29, 2019

Words From a Stranger

"I see a lot of good things here. Lots of positive things we can build on."

It feels like the nicest thing that anyone has said to me recently... and she wasn't even talking about me.  My son has a language disorder, and he's just finished playing with his new speech pathologist. She's a warm, bubbly woman with a big smile.  She keeps talking to me. 

"He's making sounds, he's saying a few words.  It's so much easier to build on this than with a child who is completely non-verbal.  He's going to do great." 

Her words feel like that first breath when you come up for air after swimming underwater.  Your lungs are on fire, and it's sweet relief.  It's all I can do not to stand up and hug her. I think she senses this, and pats me on the shoulder before she walks away. 

I can't help thinking about how these words from a complete stranger affected me so deeply.  Almost everyone who knows about my son's verbal/behavior delay has said something uplifting.  I feel like my husband tells me almost DAILY that it's going to be okay.  But for some reason, hearing these encouraging words from someone who has only spent about 10 minutes with my kid mean so much more.   

Why is that?

It reminded of the another time I can remember a stranger's words making me pause.

Before we had kids, my husband and I used to go to the grocery store together every weekend.  I'd make a big list, and we'd either divide and conquer or go up and down all the aisles together depending on our mood.   The life we'd built with each other was still fairly new, and everything we did together was still an adventure. 

I remember pushing our cart up to the checkout to unload it, and finding something dumb my husband had snuck into the cart. I called him out on it, and he gave some long explanation about why we *really did* need it.  We laughed and kept piling our groceries onto the belt. 

The cashier was young.  Probably just a high school kid working his first job.  I remember he smiled at us and said, "You guys seems really happy.  Most people come in here and they look tired or sad, but you two are really fun." 

Of course, NOW I know that kids and jobs and keeping up with the housework and dealing with life's other stressors can suck the joy right out of a trip to the grocery store.  But at the time, I thought maybe he was right.  Maybe our relationship WAS special.  Why did I need a stranger to point that out to me?

Why do I have a tendency to think:

"She's just saying that because she's my friend..."
"He's just laughing at my joke because he's friends with my husband..."
"This situation is REALLY bad, and she's just downplaying it to make me feel better..."

Why am I more willing to trust the words from a stranger than those from my family and friends? Maybe it's because they don't have any stake in the game. They have no reason to spare my feelings, so I assume they are being completely honest.  Anyone else ever feel this way?

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