My stomach growled as I waited impatiently in the long breakfast line. The elderly lady in front of me was taking an eternity to choose a piece of fruit. She lingered over the bananas, lovingly fondled each orange, and then, finally, with agonizing slowness, selected a bunch of bright purple grapes and carefully arranged them just so on her plate.
At last–my turn. I passed over the fruit and headed straight for the bread. Gluten free? No thanks. Wheat, white, and … wait, could it be? Yes, RAISIN BREAD! And the precious heel was still there! My hand trembled with eagerness, my mouth watered with anticipation, as I quickly grabbed the heel and tossed it into the toaster. I slid the handle down and heard the satisfying click that told me that toasting had begun.
My pleasant reverie about raisins and butter was rudely interrupted by the bright-eyed woman behind me, who was sporting a shirt that proclaimed “My Cat is A Democrat!” along with a spirally orange, yellow, and lime green tie-dyed skirt. “What do you think of the workshop so far?” she chirped, way too cheerily for 8 in the morning. “Isn’t the presenter great? Are you going to any of the afternoon classes? You have two children, don’t you? How do they like their teachers?”
I smiled politely as my mind stayed focused on the perfect, hot-out-of-the-toaster raisin-y goodness that would soon be mine. I would smother it in butter and cram my mouth full with an enormous, satisfying bite. I was so hungry!
Finally, chatty woman took a breath and paused. I took that opportunity to turn eagerly back to the toast that I knew awaited me.
It took a split second to realize that my beautiful, perfect piece of toast …. was gone.
“Oh, was that yours?” chatty lady asked casually. “Someone else came by and took it. Must have thought it was up for grabs.”
My throat tightened and for a moment I couldn’t breathe. My toast. The toast I had been dreaming of. The heel I had been planning to sink my teeth into, warm crust and juicy raisins intermingling with the rich taste of melted butter. Gone, just like that.
How DARE that dirty bastard steal MY toast? What kind of jerk does that? It was MINE, dammit.
To my horror, I felt tears rising to the surface. Oh great, now I’m going to start bawling in front of 200 people over a stupid piece of toast. In the middle of a mindfulness retreat, no less.
I’m mindful, alright. I’m mindful that some jackass stole my toast!
“Don’t be so childish!“ I scolded myself, “Pull yourself together! There’s more raisin bread, just put another piece in the toaster. Geez! What the heck was that all about?”
What the heck was it about? I reflected for a moment … and then my mind flashed to the family meals of my childhood, fending off my older siblings’ attempts to steal my one allotted slice of meatloaf or bowl of oxtail stew. I would silently slip away to hide in the dimly lit laundry room closet with half an orange popsicle clutched in my hand, savoring the rare treat in peace.
Oh yes, that old feeling that there won’t be enough for me. Even when I have plenty.
Big feelings over apparently trivial things.
What I long to hear in those moments is validation: “Of course you’re mad! It was terrible that someone took your toast. I’m so sorry! It’s a total outrage. And we’re going to find that dumb-dumb and kick ‘em in the shins!”
And then it hit me–that’s what my kids need too.
How many times have I rolled my eyes, yelled at them, or sent them to their room when they’re melting down over their version of raisin bread toast? “Seriously? You’re throwing a hissy fit because your sister pretended to take your *imaginary* cookie and she won’t give it back?”
The thing is, the more grace, compassion, and forgiveness I extend toward myself, the more grace, compassion, and forgiveness I can show my kids.
In the end, it’s kindness that matters. Not how clean she keeps her room or whether he can memorize all the state capitals or how many soccer goals she scores, but kindness.
Is he kind? Is she compassionate? Can they easily forgive?
That’s what I want for my kids. That’s what I want for myself. Kindness, compassion, forgiveness.
Unless, of course, you steal my toast. Some things are just unforgivable.