September 29, 2017

Life Lessons I Learned in the Bathroom at Whole Foods

The other day I stopped into my local Whole Foods to grab something to eat. I went to the ladies restroom to wash my hands and when I opened the door, a small boy, maybe four or five years old was standing in front of the sink.

"I need water," he said to me.

I looked around at first, making sure it was definitely me he was speaking to. Then, I realized he was trying to wash his hands, but was too short to reach the faucet.

"Do you need help with the soap, too?" I asked.

"Uh huh," he said, holding his hands under the soap dispenser, which was also too high on the wall for him to reach.

I pushed the button, releasing a few dollops of foamy soap into his outstretched fingers. Then I reached up and turned the faucet on as he did his best, on tiptoes, to wash his hands under the stream of water.

Without thinking, I began to dispense a few paper towels for him too.

"I'm having pizza for supper," he shared. "Two slices, and you can sit with me if you want."

I smiled. "That's really nice of you," I told him.

"Look for me out there," he said. "I'll be the one with the two slices of pizza. You can sit with me."

And with that, he exited the bathroom, hands clean and ready to eat his two slices of pizza.

After I finished up, I walked out of the restroom and spotted his family. There was what seemed to be a mom and dad, and a couple of younger brothers and sisters. The mom was wrangling them all and my bathroom buddy was contently eating his pizza. He didn't see me as I passed by and at that point, I felt like it would be strange to approach the table as this random woman who had chatted with their child in the bathroom.

But this interaction has stuck with me. I've pondered it so many times.

It's cliche, but we can learn so much from kids. I guess not having any myself, I forget this because I don't engage with them on a daily basis. But there were some good lessons from my bathroom interaction.

First, it's okay to ask for help. Actually, it's not just okay, it's completely natural and normal. We all have something to offer and we all have some sort of needs. Why not work together and help each other along the way?

Then there's the topic of community, which I was welcomed into, no questions asked. I guess I looked harmless enough and this kid appreciated my assisting him with his hand washing, so it just seemed like the next logical step to invite me to sit with him while he ate two slices of pizza.

How many people in the world feel lonely, disconnected, and like nobody even notices them? Sometimes I get a sad feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see an older person, eating alone at a restaurant. But do I ask them to join me? Not usually.

My young friend in the Whole Foods bathroom has got it right. We all need something from each other. And together, we aren't so alone.

I want to be more like him. Willing to ask for help without feeling like in doing so, I'm admitting some sort of weakness. And I want to be more willing to create community, taking it beyond just those I know and am familiar with, but extending this idea of community to others. Those who might otherwise be eating or spending their time all alone.

Those who might need a bit of extra help, but also have something valuable to give.