Monday, 13 February 2012

A Paris Surprise

Has a stranger ever caught you off guard?  Have you ever been so absorbed in your own drama, having tuned out everything else, only to discover you’ve been watched the whole time?  That’s exactly what happened to me.

I don’t often bring my children to the city, but yesterday we enjoyed a rare day out together.  Since we live in a rural area, my children are used to living simply.  Materialism doesn’t factor large in their lives, and shopping isn’t something they do a lot of.  Our senses were bombarded as we wandered around, buying clothes and watching people pass by.  The shops were filled with red roses, heart shaped chocolates, and an assortment of gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Though some people scoff at the commercialism of the holiday, it's one of my favorites: a whole day set aside to honor LOVE!

As the day was coming to a close, we popped into one last store to buy a card.  It’s for someone special I plan to write about in an upcoming blog post.  I didn’t realize Willow Tree produced cards, as well as sculptures, so I was thrilled to find a perfect image:

This year has been full of blessings so far, and I’m filled with gratitude.

While I was still browsing, a teddy bear caught my daughter’s eye.  She asked if I’d get it for her.  By then I’d spent our money, and couldn’t justify buying anything else.  

“Please, Mommy?  He’s so soft...” she pleaded.  Her big hazel eyes were hopeful, but quickly filled with tears when I said no.

She wouldn’t let it go.  My daughter is one of the sweetest girls ever, but when she sets her mind to something, it’s hard to distract her.  I could see how much the toy appealed to her, and I felt terrible.  There are so many things I wish I could afford to give my kids; I’d like to provide them with experiences to enrich their lives, toys to stimulate their imaginations and help them develop, comfortable clothes which allow them to express themselves with color, and much more.  I do the best I can, but resources are especially limited since I’m a single parent.

As we were about to leave, my daughter started to cry.  She wasn’t whining or being obnoxious.  I put my bags down, as she buried her face in my coat, and quietly began to sob.

“I can see how disappointed you are, and I’m sorry I can’t buy it for you today.  Maybe we can come back another time now that we know the teddy is here,” I said softly.  I held her a moment longer, before taking her hand and moving towards the door.  

Just as we were about to step into the foyer of the Douglas Shopping Centre, the saleslady called out to us.  “Wait!”  I turned to see what was going on.

A man was at the back of the shop.  We had been the only customers, and I hadn’t noticed his entrance.  “Can I buy this for her?” he asked, holding up the teddy.  “She’s so beautiful, and I can’t bear to see a child cry.”  He spoke softly in a trans-Atlantic accent, similar to mine.  It was hard to place where he was from, but I suspect he was American too.  He looked like he could be related to us; his caramel complexion matched my own.  

I was momentarily speechless and unsure of what to do.  Would it be inappropriate to accept his offer?  What would you have done?  For some reason, I am more comfortable giving than receiving, though I’ve been working on this issue for quite some time.  

Recently I received a Daily Flame email, written by Lissa Rankin, MD, which particularly resonated with me.  She pointed out that allowing someone to give is actually a gift to both the receiver and the giver.  In her post, Lissa encouraged me to accept that the giver will only offer when he or she is in a position to do so.  She stressed the importance of trusting the other person, and acknowledging that it is the giver’s responsibility to set their own boundaries.  

That was an “ah ha” moment for me!  I’m afraid of receiving because I always worry that the exchange will be out of balance.  Since I’ve had poor boundaries in the past- and gave to others until I was drained (because I didn’t first look after my own needs)- I’m often concerned that other people will make the same mistake.  However, it’s arrogant of me to think I can gauge other people’s internal states, and quite frankly, it’s not my responsibility.

In light of this discovery, I decided to accept the gentleman's kind offer.  It took a moment before my daughter understood, but her tears quickly dried when he handed her the teddy.  She cuddled the soft toy, beaming.  Then something magical occurred: the saleslady lit up, my son’s smile grew larger, the man’s eyes began to twinkle, and I was inspired beyond words!  

“Aren’t you going to ask his name?” the saleslady asked my daughter, pointing to her benefactor.

“I’m called Paris.”  We all agreed it was a wonderful name, and that the teddy bear should share it.  Looking back now, I wish I had asked Paris where he was from, why he has made Ireland his home, and does he perform random acts of kindness regularly?  I wonder if he’s married or has children of his own.  An ordinary man gave us an extraordinary gift: he reached out unexpectedly and made one little girl extremely happy.

This morning my daughter woke up early and bounced out of bed.  She joyfully dressed her teddies before she left for school.  Check out Paris Jr.’s makeover!!  The braids and sparkly rainbow tiara are priceless... My daughter owns a matching nightdress, and I suspect these two will be inseparable for some time to come.

Driving home last night, I spoke to my children about the need to pass it on.  When we acknowledge the gifts we’re given, by expressing gratitude, they multiply.  In my deepest heart, I believe in abundance; love will fill every cell if we allow it to. My favorite quote of Rumi’s comes to mind:


“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

I want to pass on this story to you so your Monday will be brighter, assured that simple gestures make lasting impressions.  What will you do today to pass on your light, and help someone else to shine?

Big hugs,


P.S.  Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!


*If you haven’t discovered Owning Pink yet, or followed @Lissarankin, better hop over to her website FAST! Prepare to be seriously, irrevocably inspired.


  1. Robin what a WONDERFUL and inspiring story....such a kind and open hearted man. I'm so glad that his gift made everyone involved smile and shine their lights! XO C~

  2. Teared up reading this. I so enjoy seeing random acts of kindness and loving one's neighbor in action. What a blessing Paris' gift was to all of you, him included.

  3. As a result, my kids are all talk about doing good deeds today. A friend surprised us with "Love Hearts", left in our letterbox, this afternoon. My son thinks we should anonymously spread the candy around our neighbors' front doors!

    We can spend so much time lecturing kids about sharing, but they learn by living... and Paris taught them a wonderful lesson!!

  4. Me too and you're right, Cat! We won't forget him or his kindness. I'm grateful for all the good people in our lives, including YOU. ♥

  5. That's absolutely sweet, and I'm so glad Paris gifted your daughter that teddy bear. The sweetness of paying it forward always makes me smile.

  6. Same here, Meredith. It's sort of like the "appreciation virus" that you were helping to spread on twitter! :)


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