My youngest daughter, Tess, is 9 and painfully shy. I try
and help her in situations when she feels anxious or awkward, but I’m not much
comfort. It seems that conquering shyness is a mostly internal, personal
Last week, we were at the library and I introduced Tess to a
friend of mine. I was able to coax a, very quiet “hello” out of her, eyes
averted to the ground as she slid behind me.
“Please look people in the eye when you talk to them. It’s a sign of
respect,” I said to Tess when we got into the car.
“But I’m shy,” my little girl said.
Later that afternoon, Tess took the bag containing her pack
of gum from the cashier at the pharmacy and said, “Thank you,” but wouldn’t
look up at the woman behind the counter. I exhaled louder than I realized.
We dropped her twin sister off at physical therapy and
decided to get in a quick trip to the grocery store. Off we drove, not really
knowing where the closest market was. After a while, we came upon a supermarket
in a sketchy part of town. As we walked to the doors of the store, we saw a
woman with two young boys, holding a sign that said, “I’ve lost my job, please
can you help?” I stopped to talk with the woman, as Tess once again, slid
“What’s going on?” I asked the woman. She was thin and ethereally
beautiful. She sort of mimed an answer because she didn’t speak English. Tess
tilted her head out from behind me to look at the woman’s little boys sitting
on the ground next to their mom. Tess smiled at them and they broadly smiled
back. “Okay,” I said, holding up my index finger as if to signal, "Hold on a
second," took Tess by the hand and walked back to the car.
“Tess, I keep a 50 dollar bill in the car in case of an
emergency. Do you think this is an emergency?” I asked my shy daughter. “Yes.
For sure. It is for sure,” Tess replied, then she added, “Can I give the money
to the lady?”
On the ride home, Tess had a huge smile on her face. ... She was sincerely grateful to have been of service to someone.
We walked back to the supermarket entrance. Tess looked the
woman in the eye and handed her the money. The woman was taken aback by the
amount and hugged Tess. We walked into the supermarket and Tess said, “Can we
do more for that lady and her little boys? Can I go ask her if they’ve eaten
today?” “Yes, of course,” I said, “Do you want me to come with you?” Tess
looked confidently up at me and said, “No. I can do this on my own.”
Through hand gestures, Tess was able to surmise that they
had eaten breakfast but not lunch, so we picked up some grapes, bananas,
pretzels, cheese and waters, and ice cream cones for the boys. I grabbed the
few things I needed, and as we were checking out, Tess asked if we couldn’t buy
the woman a gift card to that store, too, so that she could buy groceries when
she needed them. I told her that was a great idea.
We bagged up the woman’s groceries. Tess made sure that the
ice cream cones were on top and she carried the bag outside, in the hot July
sunshine, to the woman and her sons.
Tess handed the groceries and gift card to the woman; She
looked confused then smiled and hugged my daughter and I tightly. We lingered a
little in the hot, summer afternoon then turned and walked to our car.
On the ride home, Tess had a huge smile on her face as she
kept repeating over and over, “I’m so glad we got a chance to help that lady
and her children. It felt so good to do something for them!” She told her twin
sister about it as soon as we picked her up from physical therapy, and it was
the first thing she told my husband when he got home from work. She was
sincerely grateful to have been of service to someone.
For Tess to see the difference she was able to make in that
family’s life was a priceless gift not only for her, but for me, too.