No one likes to feel left out or excluded, and as much as we like to think such meanness is left behind us in the halls of junior high, the truth is, cattiness and cruelty follows many of us into adulthood through the behavior of others. I hate to throw my fellow moms under the bus, but let’s be honest: some “mean girls” grow up, have kids, and go on to be mean moms, excluding other moms from their cliques, as popular blogger and author Rachel Macy Stafford recently found out.
Stafford, known as the”Hands Free Mama” perfectly captured this sad occurrence with mean moms and shared it with her readers.
Her profound words bear repeating.
My fifth-grade daughter started a new extracurricular activity a few weeks ago. We’re still learning the ropes and aren’t quite sure how things run. On the first day, we walked up to two women who were waiting with their children for the activity to start. I politely asked them a question about protocol and explained we were new.
I was met with annoyed facial expressions and curt answers.
Following that response with an introduction seemed inappropriate so I turned to their children and introduced myself and my daughter to them. We talked with the children until the class began. The following week, I saw the women again in the waiting area.
“Hello,” I said warmly. “How are you both doing today?” I received mumbled replies and they immediately turned back to each other and continued talking. My daughter and I talked to each other which relieved the painful sense of feeling invisible.
When they went back to the activity for the third week, Rachel Macy Stafford again saw the two women, but this time, could not bring herself to speak to the mean moms. She says she “felt a twinge of something I couldn’t explain” in her stomach and she just could not bring herself to face the rejection again. But then, as she stood there talking to her daughter, she experienced a revelation of sorts. She turned to her daughter and said, “Remember this.” She goes on:
Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.
Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.
Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.
Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.
Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.
Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.
This, she said, was the “best possible outcome” from her experience of being rejected. She went on to tell her daughter how she, just ONE person, could make a difference to someone who was feeling left out or excluded. She says ultimately, the mean moms who rejected her gave her a priceless gift. “The unkind treatment I received became a means to gain awareness, compassion, and connection,” she wrote.
Then, she recounted several examples of times when ONE person’s kindness had made a difference in her life, and when she was able to be the ONE person to make a difference in someone else’s. “One person can do that,” she says.
“One person can give someone hope.
I know this, I absolutely know this, but how often I forget.
Life gets busy. Things get familiar. I get caught up in my own problems, etc. etc.
I nearly forget what I have the power to do until one Tuesday afternoon when I take my daughter to an activity, and I am reminded. I approach two women hoping for kindness, but I am met with rudeness.”
Stafford’s words here gave me pause…not because I disagreed, but because I needed to read them over and over again to digest them. The truth and weight of her revelation resonated deeply with me, and I began to think of times in my life when just one person had made a difference to me.
I thought about a time when I was trying to get my developmentally-delayed child into a special preschool, and one person on staff went above and beyond to help me with the paperwork. It was a healing balm to my worried, nervous mother’s soul. I thought about a time when another of my children had to have a brain MRI, and am undoubtedly busy nurse took extra time to reassure me after they had taken my daughter back for the procedure. I thought about a time when I was frantically making a mess of my three-year-old’s birthday cake, and a friend dropped everything to come and help me. The smallest kindnesses can make the biggest difference, especially to someone facing fear, anxiety, or loneliness.
Lovely mamas who read this today, I pray that you and I will all take a page from Rachel Macy Stafford’s book (both literally and figuratively). Let’s not be the mean moms, the excluders. Let’s make room at the table for newcomers. Let’s look outside of our comfort zone and see who else might need to enter it. And for the love of all that’s holy, let’s teach our children to do the same. Raising children who are includers may be the most important thing we do to change the world we live in. Teaching our kids to show love and kindness, and to think of others first, as the Bible says to do, will surely go a long way to making this world a better place.
In a country that is so divided now, when tolerance is preached, yet intolerance of a differing opinion reigns, may we show everyone we encounter that our humanity is common ground, and that we are all worthy, as image-bearers of God, to be welcomed and included.