Mothers Day is a wonderful pause, the perfect time to think about the big questions: Is anyone learning anything ?; These kids won’t be home forever, what lessons will they take with them?;  DOES ANY OF THIS REALLY MATTER?

Truthfully, the answer to these questions usually feels a little dismal. The kids don’t seem to be learning much of anything because I do such a poor job of modeling any great lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, I have wisdom I’d like to teach my kids, truths I believe, but I keep failing at the lessons myself.

Here are the great truths I wish I could infuse into my kids:

Be humble.

This is God’s story, not yours.

Stop judging.

It’s not about you.

Hate makes you sad.

The world needs love.

And so on and so on….

Even though I want to teach this lesson to my kids, I still judge everyone by how they look. I still decide who I like within a few seconds of meeting them. I still hate and criticize and worry way too much about myself.

But with prayer and hope, I do a tiny bit better than I did the day before.

Yet on Mother’s Day, while at the beach with the family, I relearned all these lessons again.

While Mike taught the twins how to Boogie Board,  I helped the other kids dig a huge hole in the sand. Lots of beachcombers walked past, most of them with dogs and kids. Some stopped to chat. My kids were smiley and friendly, I was accepting and nonjudgmental. We were rocking the humbleness,  right here on the beach.

And then came a homeless woman, with her mangy dog and screaming toddler. Her hair was white-blonde and she was sunburned in that particular way of homeless people. Her shoulders were both leathery and bright pink at the same time. She seemed to be looking for hand-outs. Or, at least, looking for something. Her child was mumbling “mama, mama.”

She was a heavy woman, and her bathing suit was working very hard. Unfortunately, the bottoms weren’t doing their job. About three inches of her bottom showed where the suit sagged.

Her mangy dog immediately began licking Nate, who tried to push the dog away. Her toddler picked up Nate’s toys and threw them into the water.

My kids circled closer to see what would happen.

Determined to show my kids what humbleness looks like, I began to talk to this woman. I held out a bottle of water, but she didn’t take it. She was pointing at Nate, who had moved away from her toddler to play with a Boogie Board. “Whazeename?”

“Boogie Board,” I spoke very slowly, since she was probably drunk.

“Thee ees ze name? Boogie Board?”
Maybe she wasn’t drunk, but she was also not an English speaker.

“It’s a kind of surfboard. For kids. It’s a Boo-gie Board.”

The crazy woman with her bottom hanging out was looking at me like I was crazy.

Then I realized she was talking about my son.

“OHH! His name is Nate.”

She chatted with Nate and her son in a gibberish that seemed to confuse them both. Then she asked where we lived. I told her, hoping she wouldn’t come begging around the house later this afternoon.

She pointed to an enormous mansion along the shore. “Zees is my house!” she said.

She seemed so sure of it, I wanted to believe her. “Really? This is your house? Right here?”

“Vight here! Zees is my daughter’s house. I am on holiday vom Paris.”


There you go. This homeless woman actually had a few homes. Her skin looked leathery because she was about 70 years old. She told me about how she loved the beach and spent many summers at the shore in the south part of France. After 70 years in the sun, she looked fantastic.

The revealing bathing suit was because she was very French and was used to nude beaches, not our straitlaced American ones. The sunburn was because she had spent “all my moments for the last three days at the beach with my grandkids!”

Her grandson was crying because they were walking along looking for his mom and his twin, who were late to come home for a Mothers Day lunch.

And the dog? The dog was not mangy, but it was actually a celebrity dog on our little beach. Two weeks ago, a rattlesnake had bitten him on the dunes, which made patches of his hair fall out. We had all heard about this dog! The one who survived the rattlesnake bite! This was THE DOG!

As I chatted with this sweet woman, I realized what a self-absorbed idiot I was.  Maybe I wasn’t making too much progress with humbleness.

The woman was  glancing behind me. Mike was in from the water with the twins and was helping the other kids with their hole. When I saw what she saw, I realized our group looked pretty crazy.

Now I had a new prayer. I hoped this sweet woman had  already learned the Mothers Day lesson of not judging anyone for the way they look at the beach.


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