Kindness in an ice cream cone
When I was a young child, I rode in the car with my mother on her weekly visits to pick up Mary. The three of us rode to a popular Ice Cream store where Mother would buy a small cone for each of us. Naturally curious, I asked Mother why Mary was always sad, always crying. In her soft voice, she told me I didn't need to know that, and I guess that satisfied me. What she could not tell me was that Mary was a victim of spousal abuse. Her four children were a victim of child abuse. Mary was trapped in a dysfunctional marriage with no way to escape.
My mother's weekly visits provided Mary's only escape. Mary didn't drive. She was a prisoner in her own home until my mother picked her up for an hour's escape from her dark world. With all of her children safely at school, Mary's hour with my mother provided her with security each week. For me, the ice cream cone was my treasure for that day. To Mary, my mother's kindness far outweighed the ice cream. She knew Mother could not solve her problem. However, the weekly drive around town provided a beautiful, though brief, escape into another world.
I don't know how they met, but knowing my mother as I did, I believe Mother just met her by chance and then the love and kindness in her took over. She never regarded Mary as different from any of her other friends, all of them a part of our comfortable middle class life.
I was not tuned in to their conversation as I made make believe in the back seat with my dolls. I only observed, and what I saw was my kind mother choosing to make a difference in Mary's life.
One day, we went into Grace's apartment of three rooms and a bathroom. A strong smell of clorox filled the kitchen. The next room, which should have been a dining area, had been converted into a bedroom where all six family members slept together. The last room was a living room.
I did not know about the pain that happened in those three rooms, but as a five year old child, I could make this observation: Mary's home was not like mine. My sister and I had our own bedrooms, we had a spacious living room and dining room. We had a large den where my dolls lived. At a young age, I learned that poverty and dysfunction made a cruel visit into Mary's home and I was sad.
Then, news broke into my mother's heart when she learned Mary's high school daughter was pregnant with her own daddy's baby. My mother went to work, finding a place for the teenage to live until her baby was born. All of this was out of the realm of my conscious understanding and my mother shared very little with me.
But I watched and I learned from her. The Bible talks about being kind to the "least of these." Mary and her children were the "least of these." I also learned that a small cone of vanilla ice cream, given with love and without any judgment, made a definite difference in another's life.
Both Mama and Mary are in heaven now. But every time I get a small cone of vanilla ice cream I am carried back to those days of long ago when my mother's kindness taught me real lessons in kindness.