Connecticut mom Katie Sypher-Piper hadn’t been having the best go of things lately when she walked into her local Payless shoe store to buy her kids some much-needed shoes and snow boots. When she realized the shoes and boots were coming in over her allotted budget, her mood darkened, knowing her daughter would be disappointed. She was even a little fearful that she might be judged by the two employees who were assisting her.
Instead, those two employees did the opposite of what she feared, and their small act of kindness stunned her.
She relayed the entire uplifting encounter in a now-viral Facebook post to the shoe retailer’s page, where she lauds the two women who assisted her at a store in Old Saybrook, Connecticut:
The two employees saw Sypher-Piper grappling with the fact that she couldn’t afford a simple pair of boots. She’d have to tell her toddler that there was just no way around it: The little girl would have to pick out a different pair, sans Anna and Elsa. Shoes for her 10-month-old son were just out of the question. Those would have to wait.
It might not seem like a big deal, but if you’ve ever been in the same position, you know how truly rotten it can feel. It isn’t about spoiling your kids or acquiescing to their demands. It’s about the self-loathing that comes so naturally to moms. That little voice in your head that says, “Look at yourself. You can’t even do this one small thing.” Sometimes that “one small thing” is giving your kid a pair of Frozen boots. Sometimes it’s the ballet lessons you had to cancel because you can’t pay rent and buy a leotard this month. Sometimes it’s breaking the news that there won’t be a birthday party this year.
Sometimes it’s something else, but it always feels terrible, that mix of guilt and shame. So when the two women went out of their way to get the price of the shoes down to something she could afford, the mom was grateful. What they did next floored her: They picked up the entire tab, telling her to spend the money on something for the kids instead.
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There was no judgment. No pointed whispering or conclusions drawn about her parenting abilities. Just sheer, simple kindness.
If they were like some folks, they could have been nasty or chastised the down-on-her-luck mom for not meeting some arbitrary requirement for “good” mothering. The two women could have been apathetic — no one would blame them for chalking the experience up to unfortunate but squarely in the “none of our business” category.
We do that very often. There are plenty of times when we see someone struggling but opt out for any number of reasons. We’ve got our own issues, we don’t have time, or maybe we just don’t want to make it awkward. That mom trying to handle a tantrum in the local grocer’s or counting pennies over a tub of formula sure looks like she could use help, but what if we’re wrong? What if we step in and it’s embarrassing, or worse, insulting?
It’s not easy to make that judgment call, but these women did and in a way that didn’t compromise Sypher-Piper’s dignity or make her feel worse, but was instead “amazing and uplifting,” by her own admission.
The thing is, it didn’t take much. It wasn’t a grand gesture or a showy, patronizing “favor.” It was just two pairs of boots and socks, the grand total of which likely didn’t even top $75. That’s it. Something small to them, maybe. Something small to a lot of people, probably.
But to Sypher-Piper, it was huge. To her, it was everything.