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Monday, April 4, 2011

A Simple Act of Selflessness

I was unmarried for many years. As a single person I occasionally adopted families of small children I could be a surrogate aunt to. I was spending the Christmas holidays with just such a family when this story took place.

I had accompanied this family to the home of other members of our congregation for Christmas Eve socializing. The evening had just concluded and I was strapping the three year old girl, I'll call Stacy, into her car seat in the mini-van for the trip home.

The night was extremely cold. It was 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. This was normal for the location and time of year. However, the tilt of the seat, and the sitting position, had elevated Stacy's pant legs up exposing bare flesh. There was nothing I could do about it. After I finished, Stacy immediately started crying. Though her tears she said, "I'm cold." I looked around the van for some obvious solution but couldn't find anything.

Stacy's Mom was just arriving at the van with all the other children in tow. I told her "Stacy says she's cold. Is there a blanket or something for her?" Without skipping a beat, she simply took off her own coat and wrapped it around Stacy's shivering frame. Mollified, Stacy stopped crying and settled down contentedly for the ride home. The other kids piled in around her.

I climbed into my own seat, embarrassed and sheepish that such an obvious, selfless solution had eluded my powers of thought. It hadn't even occurred to me to take off my own coat although I was wearing multiple layers of clothing including a wool sweater, wool socks, boots and thermal underwear in addition to my own winter parka.

Stacy's mother hadn't even paused to reflect. The solution was as natural to her as breathing. I silently promised myself to try and follow her example in the future.

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