The Kindness Chain – Jennifer Millikin

Joining the kindness chain — > I have a thing about balloons. I don’t like them. They pop, they cause fights between my kids, and they float away. And after each of these scenario’s plays out the tears fall like a summer rain. Me and balloons, we are not friends.

But on a Friday night at a packed restaurant, I found myself staring into my son’s big, brown eyes as he sweetly asked for a balloon. “Sure,” I told him. “Let’s go pick one out.” Our meal finished, we rose from the table and went to the scanty cluster of balloons loosely tied from a rail.

“I want the blue one Mommy!” My son squealed, just one second before another little boy joined us.

“What color would you like?” I asked the boy standing beside my son. His mother made her way toward us.

“Blue.” He replied.

I looked at the balloons, the cause of so much angst, and saw only one blue balloon. I glanced at my son, his little hands held out in anticipation, and handed the coveted blue balloon to the other boy. The boy’s mother thanked me and they went back to their table.

My son’s face crumpled and in seconds he was gushing tears. He was devastated. I now had another example to add to the list of a balloon’s possible offenses. His tears did not stop. They flowed through the painstaking wait for my husband to pay our check. They poured on the walk through the restaurant to our car. He sobbed while I strapped him into his car seat. I stroked his hair and told him I understood his disappointment and that it was ok to feel sad. I explained mommy was trying to be kind to the other little boy.

“Excuse me?” I heard from behind.

I turned around and there stood the little boy and his mother. Lip trembling, he held out the balloon.

“You don’t have to—” I started to say, but the woman stopped me.

“It’s important to him,” she nodded at my son, strapped in and whimpering. She bent down and said to her son, “This is how we love people.”

He pushed the balloon to me and they started back to the restaurant. Astonished, I yelled my thanks as they walked away. The mom turned back to me, smiled and waved.

I cried on the drive home. A stranger’s show of kindness to the child who holds my heart was more than I could handle.

A few years have passed since that happened. My kids no longer have an affinity for balloons and I have not mysteriously developed one either. My awe and gratitude for a fellow mom’s kindness has not decreased as time has passed. It is a constant reminder of the love I must teach my children to show to everyone, even to people they do not know. And I very begrudgingly admit, this all happened because of a balloon.

Personal note: I think of this experience often. It compels me to put down my sword and armor and open up. This mother and her son were Indian, and we are White. To her, my son was not a color but a person with a feeling. In today’s tense political environment, it is a beautiful reminder that we do not feel in different colors.

Jennifer Millikin 

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