A few weeks ago we were on our biweekly library outing. Now, when we go to the library – we GO to the library! It is one of the highlights of my children’s day when I tell them it is library day. Everywhere we have lived we have gotten to know the librarians at our local library. I am pretty sure that when the day comes for our children to get married - we will have wedding invitations addressed to librarians we have known through the years.
When we leave the library we are carrying a laundry basket full of books - lots and lots of books. Most of which, we read during the two weeks we have them. We have a requirement that the kids have to check out several books on different topics. They have to get a biography, a science book, a geography or history book. Now that Zak is reading well, he is required to check out at least five easy readers.
I had sent him over to the easy reader section and told him to sit down and pick out five books. He would have been content to stay in the insect / animal section looking at books on dinosaurs; or his most recent subject of obsession since having a Labrador retriever in the country has increased his exposure to the despicable creatures – finding book on tics!
It was while he was standing nearby looking at picture books to read aloud to the children when my eye noticed her. She was well groomed, well dressed, but behaved badly. She seemed to have the mindset that since she was richer, older and bigger than children she should be able to push any child out of the way to locate books for which she was intent on finding. Zak happened to be looking for books in the exact same spot she wanted to look. There were several shelves of easy reader books - but she was intent on looking in the exact location Zak was looking for the books. She would push through and Zak would move over - only to have her decide that where he had moved to and was looking was the section she now needed to look through. It went on for some time. It was quite unbecoming and she was very rude. Zak did not notice the belligerent behavior – or the dirty looks she kept giving him as he was trying to find his books and kept moving aside as she pushed her way through and made him physically move several different times.
Zak did not notice.
Time past, Zak found his easy reader books, let the lady have all the shelves of easy readers to look at and headed back to the insect section of books. I finished choosing the book I wanted to check out for before bedtime reading; and finally we were finished scavenging the shelves for books and it was time for us to go and check out. When we got to the front counter with our arms loaded down with books I noticed that the well dressed lady was standing at the counter checking out a couple of easy reader books she had found. She had been busy talking with a librarian behind the counter. We stood there waiting behind – or rather beside her. We were in no rush to leave – and we were waiting our turn. As we waited, another librarian came up behind the counter and asked if she could help us check out. The well dressed lady moved aside in a huff as Zak approached the counter with his armload of books. The librarian that was helping us took a couple of the cases from audio books that we were going to check out and went back to the back room to retrieve the requested material. We stood there - waiting.
The lady beside me waited too. She kept staring at me –or more accurately - glaring at me. I was amazed. It also was one of those awkward moments – moment. My eyes met her as she kept staring and glaring so I did what came natural – and I gave her a smile. (I was wondering as I smiled what type of issue she had been diagnosed with and if she had taken the medication she had been prescribed for her condition that morning before she left for the library!) What happened next sent the hair on the back of my neck to attention. As soon as I smiled at her she snarled at me – like showing teeth snarled at me. She then huffed, grunted at me then lifting her left leg high into the air she brought her foot down with great force and stomped on the floor. . I diverted my gaze away from her and prayed that the librarian would get back soon so this awkward moment could end!
I was busy wondering what was wrong with her and was busy trying to evaluate if I needed to get the kids away from this crazy lady, that I did not even notice that Zak had been watching the whole thing. He had seen the snarl, the huffing and the foot stomping. I was horrified when I heard Zak ask, “Is there something wrong?”
She ignored him.
I did too.
He asked again, “Is there something wrong with you? You look like something is really wrong. Are you sick?”
I was ready to crawl under the counter – but there was not enough space. His autistic mind was reading this situation completely wrong - he is far from fluent in body language. I was horrified. I went to hush Zak and tell him he needed to be quiet but before I could say anything she huffed right at Zak and stomped her foot again. I think my eyes were the size of saucers. I could not believe what I was seeing right before my eyes.
As soon as her foot hit the ground Zak looked her right in the eyes and said, “Why do you keep doing that? Why do you keep stomping your foot?”
She finally spoke and while she did I could see the veins in her neck pulsating. “I guess you all are more important than me! You and your mom and little sister must have special privileges here!” Her words dripped with disdain and hate. She then crossed her arms in front of her crushing the easy reading books she was holding…
Now, I know my eyes were huge. “What was this lady’s problem?” was the question I kept repeating within my mind.
Nothing about Zak happens in slow motion - everything happens at lightning speed. I was horrified when I heard the question that I kept asking myself about the lady audibly leaving my sons lips. Zak looked at her and said, “What IS the matter with you?”
I then tried to get to the counter so I could put the books that I was holding down and put my hand over his mouth and make him stop taking to the lady. I also thought it would be a good idea to be in a position to stand between my son and the crazy lady! As I stepped up to the counter I stopped just short of putting the books down when she started screaming.
She was loud, bold, and belligerent: “I WAS HERE FIRST AND THEY WAITED ON YOU BEFORE THEY WAITED ON ME! I GUESS THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT ME. I GUESS YOU’RE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ME!”
It became clear to me at that instant that what I was witnessing was not a crazy woman or someone with some sort of mental disorder, it was a full grown adult woman throwing a temper tantrum. I was shocked; and once again I did not expect Zak to respond the way he did.
As soon as the words the woman had spoken registered in his brain he quickly bent forward and bowed to her (the way a piano student bows when they finish their piece at a piano recital). While he was bowed low to the ground he took his hand and motioned for her to go in front of him. He stood slumped over for several seconds motioning repeatedly with his hands for her to proceed to the counter in front of him. My mouth about fell to the floor. I was speechless.
Then he stood up and looked her right in the eye and said, “ You are very important and you should go in front of us! You were here first!”
Well, by this time several librarians hearing her shouting had come to find out what was going on and offer assistance. It quickly became known that the librarian that had offered to help us – had assumed that another librarian (the one the lady was talking to just a few moment before) was helping the lady. The librarian had come to help whoever was next in line - and making the assumption that lady was being helped by the other coworker - had offered to help us.
With several librarians behind the counter now to help the lady – she was motioned up to the other side of the counter and they began to check out her books. While she was waiting, Zak looked at her and said, “Every single person is special and important!”
The transformation that took place right before my eyes was nothing short of miraculous! I now, had to try to suppress my laughter. Her angry face transformed into a face chiseled with lines of shame and embarrassment – her hate had been met by kindness and love. Zak then started talking to her like they were best of friends. He asked her about the type of book she liked to read, told her about his dog and how his dog, Thor, gets tics, and how he wants to read all about tics so he can know how they get on his dog. He asked her if she had a dog, if she liked dogs and told her that he was going to meet his Dad for lunch and invited her to come and have lunch with us and meet his Dad - (who, he informed her, is a very hard worker and loved him very much!) His uninhibited conversation and kindness made her have to engage him. When the librarian was finished checking her out (and while the our librarian was still busy checking out our stacks of books) Zak went over and patted her arm and said, “You are very very important! Don’t ever think that I am more special than you. God made you and that makes you very special! ”
She sheepishly smiled and walked out of the library. I smiled in my heart and let the lesson lodge deep within: Love is a powerful force. We love others when we are humble; and even the humility of a child can softened the hardest of hearts.
Hatred and anger had met love.
Love always wins!