Some of the things single mothers have to teach small children are tougher than others.
The difference between up and down or right and left? Easy.
The difference between right and wrong? Harder.
The hardest of all may be the concept of death.
Just ask Amelia Turcotte.
Turcotte, 26, is a single mother of two daughters. Kyra, who is 6, understood what it meant when their father, Pete Hoxie, died in December of complications from pneumonia. He and Turcotte had separated, but the kids continued to have a relationship with their father. Kyra knew she wouldn’t see him again. She understood the finality of it.
For Morgan, who is 3, the reality of it was elusive. Turcotte did her best to explain, but when Morgan started talking about daddy over lunch at IHOP recently, she knew that yet another difficult conversation lay ahead:
“She still wasn’t understanding the full concept. She said that when daddy came back from heaven, she’d go to his house. I told her that that’s not how it worked, that daddy wouldn’t be coming back.”
Though her father had been gone for several months, Morgan may not have fully understood until that moment. She began to cry.
“I told her that that was OK,” Turcotte said. “It was OK to be sad. It was OK to cry. It was hard for me, too, but it was all part of being her mom – just another day of trying to deal with it.”
By then they’d finished eating, so she dried Morgan’s tears and went to pay the bill. But when she opened her purse, the manager stopped her.
“He said, ‘Your bill is already paid. Somebody overheard your conversation with your little girl and wanted to tell you you’re doing a good job and to keep your head up. And if you go over to the Ross Store, there’ll be a gift card waiting for you.’”
Turcotte was stunned. Who wouldn’t be?
“We went out and got in the car and I sat there thinking, ‘Did this really happen?’ You hear about things like that. You read about them or see them on TV, but you don’t think they’ll happen to you.”
At the Ross store, the gift certificate was waiting. She asked who the person was who purchased it but came up empty.
“They said a new shift had come on and that nobody on that shift had any idea who’d done it,” Turcotte said. “They couldn’t even tell me if it was a man or a woman. I’d asked the manager at IHOP, too, but he wouldn’t give me any information.”
Most likely at the donor’s request. Giving to have your name splashed around and get accolades for it is one thing. Giving anonymously is a better thing.
If you’ve been a single parent, you know how welcome unexpected money is. Turcotte used it to buy clothes for the kids.
“It was nice for them, and it was nice for me,” she said. “You have little kids who are dealing with grown-up stuff, and it’s hard. So it was great to have that reminder – to find out that somebody you don’t even know says, ‘You’re doing OK. You’re doing good and keep your head up.’ That meant a lot.”
It’s tempting to wonder what sort of person the mystery donor was. Someone else who lost a parent as a child? Another single parent who appreciated what Turcotte has to deal with every day? A grandparent with a soft spot for kids?
She’ll probably never know. But if she did, this is what she’d say to her benefactor:
“First, I’d say ‘thank you.’ It was such a thoughtful thing for someone to do.
“I’ve met a lot of nice people in the six years I’ve lived in Boise, but to have somebody go out of their way to do that? All they heard was that Dad wasn’t coming back and they went out of their way to make things better. That was beyond nice.
“I’d tell them how much it meant, too. They already knew that doing something like that is kind, but they might not have realized how much little stuff like that matters. It meant more than they know, and I’ll always be grateful to whoever it was that did it.”
I heard about Turcotte’s story from another single mother. She thought it was a pretty big deal, and she was right. It is a big deal. But not the sort of thing that usually makes news. Sure, we read about random acts of kindness or see stories about them on TV now and then, but by nature the news is more bad than good. War, crime and tragedy trump random acts of kindness almost every time.
That’s why I wanted to share Amelia’s story with you on this Mother’s Day. At a time when we’re bombarded on a daily basis by grim news – Ferguson and Baltimore, the seemingly endless supply of natural disasters, the latest folly at the Legislature –it helps to know that there are still good people doing good things and asking for nothing in return.
And they far outnumber the the Tsarnaevs, the Michael Vicks, the Megan Huntsmans.
If you’re feeling grumpy about the state of the world today, it might not hurt to remember that.
Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday and is posted on www.woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodward firstname.lastname@example.org.