When my first son was small and still perfecting his toilet training technique, I took him and his newborn sister to the local shopping plaza (daring, yes). All was well until he let me know he needed to “go.” In this country it’s not common to enter a place and use the toilet. There’s a lot of resistance and most shops affirm that the bathrooms are for “employees only.” You may even get a dirty look if you walk into a restaurant and use the bathroom while not dining there.
So I had to act fast. We weren’t near the public toilet or a restaurant so I chose a bookstore and hoped for the best. The shopkeeper was young, kind and said it was no problem, but as we walked toward the back another woman, (the manager?) stopped us and said, “Sorry, you’ll have to go somewhere else.”
What?! I dreaded confrontation, especially in a foreign language, but considering the situation I needed to try:
“It’s not for me,” I explained, “its for my son, he’s just learning…Please, I have a little baby here, we can’t get very far very fast…” I was desperate, but she was firm: “No, I’m sorry, it’s against store policy”
Pain in my heart was overshadowed by desperation of the immediate need: Run. I rushed out, my sons hand in my left hand, my daughters buggy in the right. We ran as fast as my-post delivery body could take us and by God’s grace made it to the public toilet in time. My son had a small accident on the way, but I was so proud of him for holding out as long as he did.
And then it happened. My disbelief at the rejection became full blown hurt. I can take rejection and “stuff it” at home, but that woman rejected my son and that was infinitely worse. She rejected his little body. She rejected his physical need. She rejected his hopeful face. She stabbed me in the heart!
I wonder how homeless people feel when they try to use a public restroom. Are they looked at with scorn or shame? Are they looked at at all? Do they still feel human despite all the rejection? How about anyone who doesn’t ‘fit’ where they are. The shabbily dressed lady in the mix of those wearing ‘Sunday best’? How about the foreigner in the midst of natives..?
God says He identifies with us, His Children, all over the bible, but especially in Matthew 25:40, “…as much as you did for the least of these, you did for Me..” Do we understand the gravity of this..?
My pain at my sons rejection quickly became anger and I decided to do something I’ve never done before: Go back and Confront her. She showed no empathy, no love, and I felt convicted to call it out…
I trembled as I walked back, part adrenaline, part anger, part fear. I asked God to help me keep cool and not throw bombs with my mouth.
I walked in and the young shop assistant disappeared in the back (was this a wild west movie?). I shared how stressful it was to run with toddler and baby in carriage to the other side of the plaza, that my son had a small accident on the way, and that I hoped she’d consider letting someone, especially a child, use the toilet in the future.
But the manager wouldn’t budge. She stood/hid? firm behind the store policy and showed not even a hint of understanding or compassion. My composure quickly gave way and I remarked “you must not have kids else you would understand.” Ouch. (and yeah, I felt bad afterward…) She swallowed and said something about babysitting nieces.
But as I reflect on this, can I blame her for not having a clue? While my heart rages for a world of Kindness and Love, I see and experience, also personally, that sometimes we just don’t “get” something until we experience it firsthand.
Did you see the Social Experiment video of a homeless child (actor) who stood on a NYC sidewalk in the cold, without jacket for 2 hours? No one stopped to check him out, not even after he got on the floor and crawled into the trashbag he was holding. But suddenly a man came alongside and asked if he was ok, GAVE HIM HIS JACKET, and tried to make him warm. And here’s the Heartbreaker: It was someone who was homeless himself.
Can we apply the royal law–“love your neighbor as you love yourself” (James 2:8) to our fellow man, or do we set conditions (she’s not Christian, he’s homeless, that goes against store policy…)?
Do we realize that what we do to/for/against others we do to/for/against God?
On the flipside of this, Blessing your kids, Part 2.
Want to know more about God’s Fierce Love for you? Read “Wildly Loved, but Love Burns Hot.
This is part of the Wild Kids, Wild God, 31 Days Looking into God’s Heart series, a work in progress.