Many, many years ago when I was a mom with an infant, a two year old, and a four year old, I had a casual luncheon that gave me a unique perspective on second chances.
My four year old son had made friends with a boy in his preschool class and wanted a play date. The other boy's mother seemed normal enough, so I invited the family to lunch after school one day.
The other mom also had an infant (8 weeks old), a two year old, and a four year old. We had greeted one another when we'd pick up our boys, and making another friend seemed like a nice idea. We set a date.
When the day arrived, she and her children came to our home. The boys and even the two-year-old girls seemed to be having fun playing. The other mom and I were in the kitchen as I prepared lunch.
Our date wasn't at all what I'd expected it to be. The other mom seemed unfriendly, distant, and only answered my conversational questions with one-word answers. To say the luncheon was awkward is an understatement. I was tremendously relieved when it came time for our guests to go home.
We continued to smile and greet each other at preschool when our paths would cross. A few weeks later, she invited me and my children to her home for lunch. You can imagine how thrilled I was with that invitation. I tried to politely say no. But she wouldn't have it.
I couldn't imagine why she would want to repeat our miserable first get together, but she was adamant, so I gave in and we set up a date.
Honestly, I even hoped one of my kids would get the sniffles to get us out of that meeting. But that didn't happen, and we joined them for lunch. Again.
The kids were all thrilled and immediately wandered off to play while I sat with my baby in her kitchen, watching the seconds tick by, counting the moments until we could leave.
She poured us some tea and pulled out the chair next me. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. "Thank you for giving me a second chance," she said.
It turns out the morning of our first luncheon she was abandoned by her husband. He told her early in her pregnancy that he didn't want to be married. She hoped it was a phase. It wasn't, and he'd stayed only until the baby was eight weeks old. Her son was so excited at the prospect of coming to my house, she didn't have the heart to cancel. She was so heartbroken, she couldn't even speak. She told me how grateful she was that I welcomed them and that I kept up an ongoing conversation, even if it was one sided.
We enjoyed a nice friendship until my family moved out of town. She got her life together and seemed to become happy again.
Although I can't recall her name, I'll never forget her story and the lesson I learned about always giving someone another chance. You never know the trials someone else is enduring.
Too often we pass by others and never know the hardship that is coloring their lives. So the next time someone seems awkward or unfriendly consider that they could be waging a very private battle, and a simple smile from you could give them a moment of relief.