When Good Intentions Go Wrong

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Photo by Lynn Kelley. Click HERE to check out her blog!

While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with a full cart, a woman showed up carrying a carton of milk, a tube of toothpaste, and a screaming infant.

I remembered what it was like when my son used to freak out like that. His shrieking used to make me feel jittery and self-conscious. I wasn’t in any hurry that day, and I wanted to help. “Would you like to go ahead of me?” I asked.

“Why?” the young mother accused. “Is his crying bothering you?”

“No, I just figured you have two dinky items and I have a whole cart,” I said. “You can jump ahead of me…”

“Screw you!” She frowned. “I’ll find another line.”

As she stormed off, I was bewildered. I had just wanted to help. And yet there I was, feeling strangely guilty.

Sitting in my car with the food meant to nourish my family, to fill them up, I felt completely emptied out and kind of nauseous.

I turned on the radio in my car to find NPR was running some kind of old interview with Maya Angelou. She spoke for a few minutes before she said:

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And that was all I needed.

I would not let what had happened in the grocery store ruin my day.

My intention had been to be helpful.

I had no hidden agenda.

I don’t know what was going on with that poor young mother, I only wanted her to let me help her in some small way. But maybe she felt she needed to do it all. Maybe she’d heard the same messages that I’d heard during my life. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Be strong. Figure it out. Maybe admitting she was struggling that day felt like failure. Maybe she felt like she sucked eggs as a mother because she didn’t know how to soothe her infant.

All I know is that one woman’s rejection is not going to stop me from trying to connect with other people.

I’m a connector: reaching out is what I do.

{For the record, you totally want to get in line behind me at the grocery store.  And if I offer you “headsies,” there are no strings attached.}

Do you have a quote that has inspires you? Please share it here!

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69 responses to “When Good Intentions Go Wrong

  1. I feel bad that that woman couldn’t accept your kind gesture. No reason you should feel any less. I’m glad that quote came to you just when you needed it.

  2. It was probably one of those moments that if one little thing had been different, she would have reacted differently. Maybe someone else had just made a snide comment about the baby. Who knows what events had lead to her moment in the store. Maybe she sat in her car feeling bad for her moment of rudeness. Everyone has been there, and we all have been where you are as well. I am glad you found a way to get over it.

    • Hi Duffy! I hate moments like that! I used to blame myself, thinking I’d done something to provoke the negativity. Now I realize her reaction was about her — the stuff she’s dealing with. I’ve definitely letting go of stuff these days, and it feels so good!

  3. I so needed that quote–especially today

  4. I’m thankful you heard that quote right when you did. Otherwise, it’s too easy to marinate ourselves in others’ bad attitudes – this way, you got to rise above it right away. I’ve had a couple people snap at me in the grocery store, too. I think maybe it’s because they’re harried after a long day at work, and I agree with Duffy – who knows what led this lady to the moment in the grocery store with you. Take a deep breath and move on!

    • Hi D! You are so right! I used to quickly “absorb” other people’s negatvity. I literally ALWAYS used to believe I did something to cause their reaction. These days, I don’t see life that way at all. Thank goodness!

  5. Feddy McEnster

    Why lie? I woulda said, “Well yeah, doesn’t the screaming bother YOU?”

    • Hahaha. Actually the screaming didn’t bother me at all. I just really empathized with the mother. I imagined how I used to feel so stressed out when Tech was obviously upset — like I was a horrible mother or something. Sometimes babies just need to cry! It’s our reactions to those situations that keep us chained or make us free.

  6. There are always days when we feel like the world is hitting us in the head with a hammer, even kindness just feels wrong somehow. I suspect both of you felt terrible afterward. You are so right on with your quote and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    • I’m learning not to feel horrible after interactions like that, Val. I used to beat myself up after interactions like that one, but these days, I’m being a lot more gentle with myself. If you had told me that story, I would have told you that you did everything right! That woman had something going on. I only wish I could have lightened her load a wee bit.

  7. “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill.

  8. I always offer my spot in line at the market when I have a full cart and the person behind me has only a few items. Screaming baby, or not.

    It’s called being a considerate member of the human race – which you are. But you know that already.

    As for me, the only quotation I REALLY need in this world is the Golden Rule. Some of the most brilliant things ever written are simply those words in a different order.
    :-)

  9. I think it’s great that you stopped and considered what she may have been going through or thinking at the time. So often it is not about US and it’s just someone having a bad day. Of course you let her go ahead, that’s you! :)

    • Maria: Thank you for your kind response. At the time, I REALLY thought I had done something to trigger this woman’s reaction. I’m learning to trust my intentions and stop worrying about the reaction that I receive. I know my heart.

  10. I’m sure her reaction shocked you; I would have been bowled over with happiness and appreciation had someone done me a favor in the same situation. My favorite quote is :Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I think she might have been fighting a particularly difficult battle, well beyond a crying baby, that day. Your kindness may have went unnoticed by her, but the universe noticed. :) xxxx

    • “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

      I LOVE that quote. It is amazing how – when I think about it — everyone I know is suffering/has suffered from something. Going through this horrible withdrawal, I now see how fortunate I was with regard to my good health. I have so many things for which to be grateful. I do. And, like you said, I have absolutely no idea what demons that poor woman was wrestling with on that day. As far as the universe noticing? I’m not looking to be noticed anymore. I’m just doing what my heart says to do.

  11. Whoa, I didn’t see that reaction coming at all! It can be so challenging when we put kindness out there and get something abrasive in return. I love the timing of the quote. Such hashgacha pratis. And I Iove how generous all your commenters are, how quick they are to give that mother the benefit of the doubt. So much love!

    • Rivki: I didn’t see that reaction coming wither – which is probably why it upset me so deeply. Don’t you love reading other people’s comments. Truly, I am continually amazed by the insight and kindness of others.

  12. “It’s our reactions to those situations that keep us chained or make us free.” Gee, who said that? Why, it was Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson! You know, that lady is so quotable. She’s always saying something brilliant. (And Maya ain’t bad either.) ;D

    • Awww Kassandra! You are too kind. For the first time in my life, I am starting to believe I am a good writer. That I really do have something to say and that I manage to say it in a unique way. Is that weird? Does that surprise you? I feel like I have been reborn. I’m not thru the chute yet, but I’m seeing things new eyes. I feel so fortunate. to be here to experience this. And I’m so excited – finally – to be able to respond to people again. I’m coming back to myself. It’s happening! Can’t wait to visit other people’s blogs again. Thank you for sticking with me as I continue to recover. You have no idea how important your support has been to me over the last months. (Or maybe you do!)

  13. You did the exact right thing, as it was the kind and perceptive thing to do to try to assist someone who appeared to be struggling. The fact that she did not want to accept your gesture and turned it into an insult rather than a helping hand was all about her and nothing to do with you. Never let someone else’s mistrust and negativity affect your kind heart. If it was me (and it HAS been), I would have been overjoyed with gratitude had someone offered the same thing to me. It’s what makes us human . . . the empathy and kindness we show to other humans. Glad you were able to rally and pull through the effects.

    • “Never let someone else’s mistrust and negativity affect your kind heart.”

      Hmmm! Look at how quotable you are, Misty! I’m learning to stop beating myself up when I know that my intentions are pure. Also, I’m excited to be able to respond to everyone’s comments for the first time in a long time! xo

  14. Renee…kindness never is wrong. Keep doing it.

  15. Renee, you are one of the connecting-est supporters of others I know! That was such an interesting anecdote you detailed, one to talk about with friends. Most of us try to show kindness, and it’s shocking when it’s turned around like that. One of my favorites heard at a workshop that’s helped me many times, and that I’ve offered to others who also like it: “The message is always about the sender, never the receiver.” Sure fits here. As Joan said so well–kindness is never wrong. Keep doing it. :-)

    • “The message is always about the sender, never the receiver.”

      Oh Erm! How I understand this these days! As I come out of this awful withdrawal, I feel like I have been reborn. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I am truly seeing the world with new eyes. For the first time, I am learning to trust my own heart – to trust myself – instead of what others say. I know that is what G-d wants for all of us.

  16. Sorry this happened to you, Renee. I’ve had people make me the same offer when I only had an item or two, and I always appreciated it.

    It’s a weird world. I’ve been fussed at for holding doors open for women or commenting that they look nice. I don’t understand what’s wrong with people these days.

    • People are funny, aren’t they? I used to wonder why folks get so hot under the collar about certain things. During withdrawal, I have had to LITERALLY withdraw from the world and focus on ONE thing at a time. I truly believe it is all the rushing around and multi-tasking that we do that makes us less sensitive to those around us. If we all slowed down & lived with greater mindfulness of each moment, we would recognize the Divine spark that each person carries. If we could all just give each other the benefit of the doubt – and assume that the other person didn’t mean to harm us. I know that you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Sometimes language is just insufficient, isn’t it?

  17. true. you can only control what you do, not other people. you just keep on doing the right thing. that woman clearly was in a bad place.

  18. Oh boy. Yes. Your timing is impeccable. A bit of a dust-up on twitter–one rude voice can drown out a hundred others–and that’s crazy, right? And then I remembered Brene Brown’s mantra each AM–Courage is my value. It may get uncomfortable today.

    We can’t reach out without it getting ugly sometimes. But doesn’t mean we can’t still feel beautiful and let the ugly slink on by us:).

    • Hi Kay: Isn’t amazing how one voice can make us come unhinged? And, by the way, I love Brene Brown. Who wouldn’t, right? Everything she says sounds so easy, but putting her words into practice — ahhh, there’s the challenge. It takes courage to be courageous!

  19. You did the right thing with your offer. And you obviously did the right thing taking those few moments necessary to try and centre yourself afterwards. NPR for the win!

    I do the same thing any chance I get, especially when wee ones are involved — I’ll even start gently rocking the stroller of the mom in front of me in line if they’re trying to pay while the baby’s demanding to be fed or cuddled. (They don’t usually mind!)

    As for quotes, I find my inspiration most often comes from lyrics these days. There is such an influx of quotes online that I seldom find anything new or even inspiring anymore. But a line or two from a favourite or even new release song can set my spirit soaring in an instant, and the best thing is that it can happen so suddenly and unexpectedly! This explains the clutter of paper scraps scattered around my house, each one with a line or two of lyrics scribbled hastily.

    • I’m with you on the song lyrics thing. I find myself literally WEEPING when I hear “All of Me” lately. That lyrics profoundly speak to my heart. I’m sure I look like a total dork when I’m crying in my car, but the heart knows what the heart knows. And thank goodness for that! What songs are you loving lately? Please share!

      • Huh. I feel much the same way about “All of Me”, when I first heard it I had to have a copy of it right away … of course, this was about 3 or 4 months before it was actually due for release, so I had to “bootleg” my own copy. I was the same way with “Say Something” and to this day I’m never sure if I’m going to crank the volume or turn the radio off. I have always had some weird sort of affinity for break-up or lost-love songs, since I was in my early teens. It’s taken me almost 40 years to figure out why. :-P

        I have compilation CDs that I’ve made for myself (and a friend) that keep me going; there are always at least 2 with me in my car. Some of the songs on those include selections by Steve Moakler, Christina Perri, Jason Mraz and David Gray among others. I find even the sappiest love songs (One Direction, Bruno Mars) can be so sexy if you can actually connect with the lyrics. …. but I think that might be an entirely different story, best told on another day. ;-)

        I really am happy to see you back, Renee.

  20. I was also a young mom once, with a kid who was occasionally fussy. I did not say it to the kind people who let me go ahead then, because I was in a rush to get home for a fresh diaper or something… so let me say it to you now. Thank you. Thank you for being kind and generous with your spirit. Thank you for doing a little thing that made my life better that day. If someone ever leads you to believe that what you did was not right, please remember how much I appreciate you.

    • Eliz: I love this comment. You are so right. Sometimes, when we are in a rush, we don’t have the time to express our gratitude as deeply and in a heartfelt way. Thank you for reminding me to trust my heart. Sometimes, I feel so confused by others’ reactions that I start to believe that I actually did something wrong. I’m learning to let go of the way others’ react and just trust myself and my heart.

  21. I always let folks go ahead when I have substantially more than they do – it is courtesy. When I see young parents with young ‘uns in tow, I always smile and remark “I remember those days well” and go about my business… parenting is so much fun, there are the days when we wonder how how our kids could be related for both reasons.. it is very rewarding and frustrating all at the same time. I can’t explain that woman’s response, there are some strange folks out there. keep doing what you are doing, and I’ll keep doing the same. The world needs more light and much less darkness. i am glad you are back… if you have time, check out what i’m doing next year! It’s a hoot!

    • Clay! These days people are in such a rush, I’m not sure we always see each other to recognize someone else is struggling. I’m with you about the world needing more light. As I continue to heal after this ridiculous withdrawal, I can tell you that all I want to do is love love love! And I did bop over to your blog! It looks so good — and I even left you a comment. I’m so glad to be able to leave a comment to everyone who has taken the time to comment on this post. It’s the first time my fingers have been able to fly over the keys and my eyes have been able to tolerate the light from the screen and my brain has been clear enough to comply! I know I’m getting better every day. And for that I am grateful!

  22. I imagine the ‘mother’ was extremely irritable by (likely) a number of factors including the unhappy infant. You never know — an extremely “dead-beat” father could also be causing her unhappiness & the child’s. If she had said that to me after offering the same courtesy, I would’ve had a very hard time not busting out laughing at her. ;)

    Seriously, our frustration, which often causes self-absorption in current circumstances, makes us oblivious to life’s beauty and wonder sometime, eh? My quote (of many) that inspires me?

    “In every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.”
    — Napoleon Hill

    • Oh Professor! I continue to be amazed at the number of ways people say they would have responded in this situation: truly there is no “right” way. I guess that is the complicated beauty of our world. I love that quote so much. I’m just starting to come back to life, and I can’t help but think great opportunities will reveal themselves in time. Right now, I concentrating on what I love.

  23. Jeff Schreck

    Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for me, who will be. If I am only for me, what am I, and if not now, when.” You asked for favorite quotes, and this has always been one of mine. I used this once when the rules of a class election said I couldn’t vote for myself. I won the argument, and won the election by one vote.

    • Jeff, thank you so much for that quote. I have to say, I get confused between how much is too much “me” — that is something I’m struggling with right now. I love that you used this quote to advocate for yourself. Good stuff!

  24. Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for me, who will be; if I am only for me, what am I; and if not now, when.” You asked for favorite quotes, and this has always been one of mine. I used it once when the rules of a class election said I couldn’t vote for myself. I won the argument, and I won the election by one vote.

  25. I like the quote you posted. Sometimes you just have to shake off that kind of negativity. Your intentions were honorable.

  26. Character is how you treat others who cannot do anything for you.

  27. Aw, she was just having a bad day. Kids will do that to you. She probably felt bad about it later (or maybe not!). But I love that Angelou quote! Something to remember.


  28. Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.
    -Mark Twain

    Renee, I think of you often, dear. xxx

    PS. That woman in line was mean and rude. Simple. No excuses.

    • Kim! I love that quote for a million reasons. In fact, I’m going to add it to my book of fabulous quotes! As for that woman? I don’t know if she was mad. Maybe she was sad. Or scared. Whatever she was feeling, it doesn’t really matter. I can only know my heart, my intentions. I can only observe her reaction, feel it, and let it go. I refuse to absorb negativity these days. Because you’re right: life is too short for that kind of stuff. And a slow kiss sounds so wonderful right now.

  29. A valuable lesson learned from my cats. Forgive quickly; whatever it is, get over it. I’ve noticed that, when my cats do something really wrong, like chew wires or get into the trash, I get very harsh with them. I yell, whack them with a newspaper, and yell some more. They run in terror from the ‘madman’ and almost immediately come back to jump on my lap and be sweet. Somewhere in there is a valuable lesson for all of us. I’ve sure learned a lot from my cats.

  30. Or maybe she was just a jerk.

    Nice to have you back, Renee.

  31. Oh my goodness that was SO CLEARLY not about you. Love that you heard just the right quote at the right time. I would have been stunned, too, and it probably felt like getting punched in the stomach.

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