Saturday, February 6, 2010

I was a stranger…

The Father gave me a gift this week. A kind woman.

When I take my two girls out, it has the potential to be a PROCESS. An EVENT. In other words, it could take twice as long as expect, be 10 times whinier than I expected… ANYTHING could happen. And yesterday, a good thing happened.

We walk over to the “fishy park”, (more widely known as New Moon Park) and strolled around doing all the things we normally do, like feed the fish, play on the exercise equipment, watch the roller skaters, snack on fresh pineapple, turn away people who try to touch the girls, then stop and listen to the old people singing. Then, last, but not least, we head over to the bounce castle where we pay 50 cents for Zoe to bounce some energy out.

A little diversion from the story.

When I go out with the girls, I cannot think of ONE time anyone has ever shown me the tiniest common curtesy. No one has EVER held a door open at a store or bus station while I try to get through with a stroller. Store clerks stare at me as I drag a stroller up over boxes they leave in the way. No one hold the elevator door for me while I try to convince a suddenly disobedient 1 year old to walk in. People follow me, stare at me, criticize me for not dressing them warm enough, for having them out with drippy noses, for being so fat, for not feeding them, for feeding them…

In defense of my sanity, when I go out, I check out, I put my mind in a happy place, or plug my iPod in and ignore everyone.

Back to the story.

I was in a particularly culture-frustrated state of mind, as I backed my stroller up to the 20 stairs that lead up to the bouncy castle platform. In my head I was thinking, “in AMERICA, anything for kids has RAMPS, and would be DESIGNED for a family to approach the kid thing”. (America, by the way, takes on MUCH glossier and grander proportions when you are not there) I continued to indulge in my arrogant thinking as I parked the stroller, and tried to balance a complaining Esther on my knee while I removed Zoe’s shoes.

And out of nowhere, an angel appeared. Seriously.

Clucking and smiling, a mama about 10 years older then me was at my side, taking off Zoes shoes and lining them up with the others. She picked Zoe up, and much to my surprise, Zoe gave her a BIG grin! Zoe HATES it when strangers grab her. The angel mama said something we didn’t understand, followed by “oh, how cute is the little foreigner” and sent Zoe off to play. She offered me her chair, (there is fierce competition at the bounce castle for chairs). I politely refused, and began to play with Esther after thanking her.

But that wasn’t the end. She started trying to talk to me.

“do you speak Chinese?”


“Are you from America?”


“blah blah blah blah blah?”

Um, I don’t understand

“blah bleh blah dah ahd lkehrewu!#$$%#$?”


(usually they give up here, and look to the other Chinese people around and start making fun of me)

She, on the other hand, LAUGHS! Looks right at my face, doesn’t give a rip what anyone else thinks, and continues to try to talk with me!

She busts out the universal sign language reserved for those like me.

She tells me my girls are beautiful, that I am beautiful. She asks me if I had a natural delivery or c-section. She asks me if I breast fed and compliments me on the nice chunkiness of my baby. When Esther starts whimpering, she whips a cup of yoghurt out of her bag with a straw and ASKS me before she offers it to her. She notices me getting anxious because I can’t see Zoe on the jump thing and says “don’t worry, the big sister is right there” and points her out. She continues to tell me about her son, and her parents. I catch maybe half of what she is telling me.

Everyone around is laughing at her for trying so hard with me. But she doesn’t care!

She asks me if I am happy, (WHAT?) and smiles knowingly when I say “sometimes yes, sometimes no”, she notices Zoe wanting to get out of the bouncer before I do, and jumps up to get her. Zoe snuggles right down into her lap, totally content, and accepts another cup of yoghurt that appears from her gigantic bag.

It is time to go home for Esther’s nap, and somehow she can tell before I even start saying my words for “sleep”. She helps me bundle the girls into the stroller and in her now familiar capable way, helps me lift it down the stairs. Without once being hurtful for unkind, she waves us off with a smile, does not follow us down the path, but turns back to her own child and mother.

I push the girls around the corner, and I do not check out. I don’t head to my happy place and I don’t turn my iPod on. My eyes fill with tears. Zoe sucks down the last drop of yoghurt. “I was a stranger, and you invited me in… I was a stranger, and you invited me in.”

Remember this long, rambling story next time you are in line at a grocery store, and a non-English speaker if fumbling with her purse, looking for the right change. Look for the stranger in your midst, and “invite them in”. You might end up being their own personal angel. You might be the one that made them think, maybe for the first time, “I am gonna make it here”.


harmony said...

I'm sniffling like a baby.

Laura said...

This made me weep. What a sanctuary for your heart she was! Bless her!

Jeremy and Keri said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart and life Hallie. It is so encouraging and challenging. Love you!

Teresa Straub said...

wow, thanks for sharing that. it was so touching it made me cry. reminds me of one of my first times in Hong Kong and grandpa angel helped me get on the right bus and paid my fare (he wouldn't take no for an answer) and demanded the bus driver to assist me in getting off at the right spot.
that experience definitely burned a memory in my mind and every time i see a struggling foreigner, i remember the angels i have encountered and be another angel.

Kristin Joy said...

awww hallie this made me cry! I definitely can relate to noone trying to communicate and making fun of you so i know how rare this is and how special it is and how you must have felt so loved by daddy <3 yay for these moments!!

Todd and Carrie Pruett family said...

Hallie, I just read this and it made me cry...I do understand, especially all of the previous experience with just trying to be a 'good mom' in a foreign country when it seems as if no one understands or cares but will go a bit further to leave you feeling guilty or frustrated if you don't 'check out.' your 'angel mom' was awesome and so GOD. We too often forget he loves us so much and has our best interests in mind, our kids, too. Be blessed and always remember this day and how personal God really cares. I will. That was greater than my 'lego day' but nonetheless, i can relate!!! carrie pruett

Ed Ziebart said...

I LOVE this woman! I have been praying for father to send you people to bless you! I am going to pray you will see her again...maybe you can become friends...tell her about you-know-who. Maybe she already knows...Yes, thanks for the reminder about those that NEED our smiles and kind words. I will keep looking for them! ~ mama z

Venture With Purpose said...

Thank you for sharing this. It's far too easy to overlook the strangers in our midst. I appreciate the reminder and pray that God gives me more awareness of the people around me, the people who need the ministry of a smile, a kind word, or a helping hand.

Maggie Long said...

Thank you Hallie for the reminder... I really needed that today...

Katie Rose said...

*tears in my eyes* thanks for posting this, such a beautiful picture of love. Miss you guys- praying for you!

MY BLOG said...

Crying...that was wonderful to read.