I received an e-mail notice that payment for my P.O box was a few days overdue, so since it was my day off and because USPS.com didn't want to cooperate with me, I decided it best to haul ass across town to both empty the box which I hadn't visited in a while and pony up the payment.
When I got in line to pay there were about four people in front of me and of course only two people working the counter. The two customers at the counter seemed to have large, difficult requests, so nothing I could do but summon up a little patience and wait.
Not a minute after I'd joined the queue, a 30-something lady with came in with what appeared to be a 2- or 3-year-old kid. And the kid was screaming. The kind of screaming that makes me doubt any past or future desires of mine to ever procreate. She kept telling the kid in a menacing tone to 'be quiet,' but of course he didn't listen. That's when her phone rang, and she answered it. He kept screaming while she chatted for a moment. He kept grabbing her keys, she took them away, he wailed, she finally decided to hang up and focus on trying to keep her kid quiet. I did my best to stare straight ahead and fight a grimace that kept creeping on my face.
That's when the lady in front of me, probably in her 40s and now in the front of the line, smiled and turned to the other lady and said, "You can go ahead of me."
"Really? Are you sure?" the other lady asked with clear gratitude on her face.
"Of course. I have three kids, I completely understand."
It was then that I first felt A. doubly irritated, then B. in awe of the older woman's kindness and C. completely ashamed of my own reaction.
I was ashamed that I thought of nothing but my own irritation at the lady and her son and then had a brief moment of irritation at the older lady allowing the younger one to skip both her and me with her gesture. The younger lady was obviously struggling with juggling her son and her daily errands and a simple act of kindness from a stranger that cost the stranger nothing but an extra two minutes of her time appeared to make the woman's day. Why couldn't I have opened my heart like that?
And then something even more wonderful happened. When the woman and her son approached the counter, the boy stopped wailing. Instead, he started chirping, "Hi! Hi!" to the counter worker and anyone else whose gaze he could catch. He was smiling, and with every "Hi!" he drew a chuckle from those in the post office.