Lessons from a Stranger: Are you open enough to receive it?

It’s our first long road trip with our toddler and it was way different than my anxiety would have imagined. 

The night before the trip, I get a migraine which made us push our intended departure back to ensure I had enough rest and didn't wake up with an even worse migraine. The morning of, we wake up and there’s problem after problem. Finally, we leave the house only to return twice for reasons like: leaving my migraine medication, like I didn’t just have a migraine less than 8 hours before.

Nonetheless, we finally hit the road for an estimated 10.5 hour trip: not including the right-before-the-holiday traffic and the toddler needs to move, pee, or eat stops. Anyway, we begin our drive and it’s as expected; our toddler is restless almost immediately, he’s hungry then he’s hot, he wants to watch his iPad but he doesn’t, and he’s overall just irritable. 

About 7.5 hours into our drive, after a couple of stops and traffic on i95, my toddler violently throws up what seems like breakfast, lunch, and last night’s dinner. There is vomit all over me (I was sitting in the backseat with him), all over him, and all over the backseat. We get off the next exit and pull into the closest gas station. I get extra clothes for me and my son out the trunk, my husband grabs him and the clothes and takes him to the bathroom while I stare at the backseat figuring out the next step. Still soaked and cold with vomit I grab my Tide Disinfectant spray that I now bring everywhere to spray on hotel or Airbnb linen and I just start spraying, hoping that I will snap out of this shock and come up with a real plan. I find a towel on the floor (because what toddler car doesn’t have random shit in it) and begin cleaning. 

As I begin cleaning, an older white lady walks up to me and says “Ma’am do you need help? Is there anything I can get for you?” Anxious but grateful that she asked I said, “No ma’am. I think I’m fine for now. My husband just went inside with the baby to see if he can get some things.”

Before I continue, I think it’s important for me to add some context here and explain why this first interaction was so weird for me. The gas station we pulled into was in the state of North Carolina. This state was the first speeding ticket I ever got and for some reason the only state I would get stopped when on a road trip (I was stopped at least two more times in NC). So this was already a trigger for me. On top of that, we are seemingly the ONLY black people at this gas station. To some this may not be huge deal, but for us, we become extra cautionary and try not to bring any attention to ourselves. It’s sad that we have to think that way but unfortunately that’s where we are in society right now. 

Back to the tea:

So I go back to cleaning and the lady comes back and says, “Excuse me, ma’am. I just remembered that I have some spray in my car would you like that?” 

I reply, “oh my God, yes that would be so amazing. Thank you so much!” 

As she returns, she says, “Here you go! I also found some wipes, would you like that too?”

Trying to hold back tears at this point, “Really? You would do that? Yes, thank you!” She goes to get the wipes and I spray down the door and car.

In case you were wondering, no! My husband and son aren’t back yet by this point. Have you ever let your husband take your newly potty trained toddler to a public bathroom for the first time by themselves? I automatically assumed I’d have a solid 30 minutes to clean the car. 

The lady comes back and she says “Here, use these wipes on your pants. It's much better.” 

I reply, “Ma’am, you don’t even know how much this means to me, thank you so much!”

She says, “Don’t even worry about it and you can keep all this stuff. My youngest is 22 but believe me, I’ve been there.”

I replied, “oh wow and we’re just getting started!”

THEN she says, “Well, you’re going to be okay. You’re already doing a great job!”


I could’ve fell out right there. I’m full of vomit, my car is a mess, three car doors are open, I'm wearing socks because duh - road trip, I’m pretty sure I stepped in vomit, and all the toys and things we had in the car are now on the floor, and this woman just said I’m doing a great job? 


That moment was a moment I didn’t even know I needed. Not only did it change my perspective on initial reactions with people, I was reminded in that moment that there can be greatness in horrible situations. I hope I continue to be open enough to receive them. 

What about you? What greatness did you receive when you opened yourself up to receive it? 

1 comment

Brittni Johnson

So true.

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