Who I Was Behind Closed Doors Offers Hope for Negative Times


“We all get to see
Who we grow up to be
And anchor when in doubt
An ocean when in drought
We aim for it all
We lift of these walls
To make this house our home.”
–Blue October, Home

While visiting New York City recently, my daughter lost her wallet. It contained babysitting and pet-sitting money she’d worked hard to earn over many months. While in the midst of her trying moment, a good Samaritan eating breakfast with his family stepped in. Although my daughter only knew his first name, city of residence, and occupation, we hoped it would be enough to let him know the impact of his loving action. I wrote the following public post:

Dear firefighter Gary from Phoenix who helped my 13-year-old daughter in NYC yesterday:

Last night my daughter got home from her special trip with her Grammy and Pops. She had so much to tell us about the memorials, the statues, the skyscrapers, the shows, and the people she saw. But once we were alone in her bedroom, her suitcase still untouched in the corner, it was you she talked about.

How you helped them look for her lost wallet when she was so distraught

How you expressed deep concern when you could have just gone about your day

How you somehow knew she’d lost an amount she’d worked hard earning for many months

How you looked into her tear-stained face, pressed money into her hand, and wished her a happy birthday

How you insisted she keep it when she said that wasn’t necessary

Her exact words last night were: “Mom, I was just kind of speechless. I just couldn’t believe a stranger would do that.”

This is the girl who prepared for this trip by watching 9/11 documentaries. This is the girl who was struck again and again by the way people helped each other. She said, “Look how people are running TOWARDS the pain and suffering instead of running away.”

Firefighter Gary, thank you for turning toward my daughter in her moment of despair. You did more than redeem a moment, a day, a trip … you redeemed humanity in the eyes of a 13-year-old girl. You confirmed that the helpers on the screen fifteen years ago still exist today. You confirmed that despite what she sees and hears on the news, good people of the world are still out there spreading hope like it’s their job.

My daughter was speechless yesterday, but last night she was not. And I wanted you to know what she said about you and what she will remember about that trip forever because of you. I hope this message reaches you.

With love and admiration,

Rachel Macy Stafford, an eternally grateful mother

#onlylovetoday #livelikegary

Six hours.

That is the brief amount of time it took the post to reach Gary. I’d severely underestimated the power of good people to deliver good news, and that gave me hope.

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Before Today Ends

before today ends handsfreemama.com

Today I hear …

Whining about her sister having a bigger scoop.
Slamming doors.
The relentless buzz of the dryer–a load needs folded … again.

But I also hear …

“This dinner ‘tasteses’ good, Mama.”
The C-chord sounding a bit like heaven on a tiny ukulele.
Tender, loving words in her sleepy bedtime voice.

This is what my life sounds like today.
And if I close my eyes and listen very carefully, that which sounds heavenly can overpower the noise.

Today I see …

Wet towels carelessly abandoned upon the bathroom floor.
Toothpaste blobs inhabiting the sink.
Weeds where flowers used to be.

But I also see …

Gentle hands putting dolls tenderly in their place.
A hole where a tooth used to be—her last baby tooth to go.
A love note written in kid penmanship resting on my pillow.

This is what my life looks like today.
And if I open my eyes and look very carefully, that which appears divinely perfect can outshine the mess.

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