Recently, our travels brought us to the Branson, Missouri area, enjoying a little downtime with our family and close friends from the past. As with many previous journeys, one day was set aside to hit the nearest retail outlets in hope of finding that most desired but least needed item we just couldn’t live without. As we searched for a place to park our vehicle the girls grew ever more excited at the sight of all the storefront decorations. Equipped with the knowledge that mom and dad were for the most part pushovers, they knew they would be reaping the rewards of a shopping spree.
Our first stop was a clothing store. Upon walking through the entry doors, my heart sank as I saw the mass of human bodies hustling around, apparently thinking it was black Friday. As we carried out our exploration, we got to the point of checking out when I, putting on my best husband face, decided to take one for the team, told my wife she could go sit outside in the fresh air while I checked out. To my dismay, she gladly obliged leaving my youngest daughter and I to traverse the dreaded, seemingly endless line.
It was then that I heard my child say “hello, I really like your scarf… its very pretty”. As I turned to see who she was speaking to, I observed a middle-aged woman who kindly responded to the child in an appreciative manner. The comment my child made to the stranger was not uncommon and did not come as a surprise. As many of you have learned Riyann is a loving soul who simply desires to make people feel special. What stemmed from the original compliment is what left me speechless and gleaming with pride for my child.
The next forty minutes entailed Riyann carrying on a conversation with this woman, and the woman responding back to her as if they had been acquaintances for a lifetime. The two spoke of clothing design, school, where we lived, why we were there and everything else under the moon as the child directed the conversation. Midway through the conversation I listened as this eight-year-old looked up with enchantment in her eyes and simply said “would you like to be my friend?”
The woman smiled and responded that she would love to be her new friend. The two continued their conversation as the kind woman spoke of the importance of being kind, family, and hair styles. As we approached the check-out Riyann turned to me and asked if we could let her friend in front of us since she had less items. As quickly as it began the newly blossomed friendship came to an apparent end as the two said their goodbyes along with wishing each other well. I thanked the lady for talking with my child as she assured me that their conversation was just what she needed, and she would treasure it as I should treasure this wonderful human child.
As I exited the building, I experienced a momentary sense of shock coupled with contentment leaving me honestly unable to find the right words to describe. I had just witnessed the most beautifully perfect interaction between two strangers which ended in a friendship that both would surely remember, and I would never forget. Upon regaining my senses, I thought about how important it truly is to simply be kind, take the time to engage others, and to be approachable.
As the woman described to me “a little kindness goes a long way… and it makes the line move faster.”
Be kind my friends, take the time to engage, you may just find a blessing in the form of a stranger.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from eight to 29.