‘Just get the babies in the car.’ I stood there for too long, wondering how to let a stranger clean up my mess. It was way harder than I wanted it to be.’: Mom thanks Trader Joe’s employee for showing her ‘the beauty in the mess’

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“Dear Beth at Trader Joe’s,

I am writing you this letter to say thank you for the 89th time. I know I repeatedly apologized and thanked you in the parking lot today, when the groceries you were helping me load into my van spilled out into the parking lot. I just wanted to be sure you really understood just how thankful I am. What you saw were containers of produce scattered on the pavement, but what wasn’t as visible were the messy emotions and stories I was carrying, along with my groceries.

You didn’t know this morning, I ran face-first into a wall of exhaustion after getting up with my newborn. I had to hand my toddler a bowl of snacks, put on a movie, and ask her to just stay on the couch with me so I could close my eyes for a minute and attempt to feel like a human. You had no clue I woke up to her big blue eyes asking me how my nap was, holding a bouncy ball, and asking me if I could please have a catch with her before Nova woke up, triggering crippling mom guilt.

You, of course, had no clue before we finally left the house, I had to ask for help with childcare tomorrow from my sister, who I know was thrilled to help. I felt guilty asking because she just moved her family back to Pennsylvania from South Carolina, and I feel like I should be helping her, not asking her for help.

You most certainly didn’t know the reason I needed help was because my husband and I have a therapy session tomorrow morning. You don’t know me enough to anticipate I want to minimize that last sentence and tell a joke like, ‘You know, because, with a toddler and a newborn at home, we have to pay someone to let us sit in their living room so we can actually talk to each other for an hour and a half.’ Don’t get me wrong, there is always some truth in my jokes, but really, marriage is hard, life can be overwhelming, and we could use some help navigating it all.

It feels like a cruel joke that asking for help can sometimes/always add to the messiness of life or at least the stories I tell myself about life.

So today, when Rob was helping me bag my groceries, he took one look at the baby strapped to my chest, the toddler adorning her face with the sleeve of stickers he just handed her, and the three extra bags of groceries I didn’t anticipate buying. His question was simple, and my answer was confusing.

Rob: ‘Would you like some help to your car?’

Me: ‘Umm, I mean, I think if all of these bags can fit in the cart, it won’t be too much for me to handle but thank you.’

Rob: ‘It really isn’t a big deal. We do it all the time.’

Me: ‘Um, okay, if it’s not too much. Thank you so much.’

I didn’t want to accept the help, but I knew I needed it. I then felt all of the panic and guilt that comes with unanticipated help. I tried my best to make eye contact and not seem too awkward on the walk to my car. When I opened up the trunk of my van, I was immediately flooded with regret.

Although Mike and I had organized the back of my car the day before, it was still chock-full of the one million items necessary to leave your house with two children in tow. I believe I told you ‘just shove it in, and pray,’ which I immediately wanted to follow-up with ‘that’s what she said,’ but thankfully I harnessed what little self-control I possess and decided against quoting Michael Scott to a stranger.

We were just about done loading it all in when I heard the bag filled with grapes, strawberries, and blueberries tumble to the ground. Without hesitation, you told me to let you clean it up and you would be right back out with fresh replacements. You said, ‘Just get the babies in the car and don’t worry about it.’ I felt like I stood there for too long, wondering how to actually do that: how to let a stranger clean up my mess and help me. It was way harder than I wanted it to be. I think it’s because it felt way bigger than the task at hand. It felt like you were shouldering the weight of humanity and reinstating my belief that there is so much good in the world, regardless of the stark contrast I have been feeling and seeing lately.

More importantly, you reminded me of my inherent worthiness. You saw me. You saw me in my wildly imperfect, uncomfortable, and burdened state, and you offered your help in spite and because of it all. I could have shouldered that cartload myself, but I would have missed all of the beauty in the mess. I would have missed the opportunity to show my daughters, in order to be a good helper, we need to practice asking and accepting help. More importantly, we are always worthy of that help. So, thank you, Beth, for helping me clean up a much bigger mess than you realized.

Maybe I’ll just tell you all of this tomorrow if you are working, because I just realized I never even got the two things I actually went there for. Because, of course, I didn’t.

All my love always,


Courtesy Jessica Kelly

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Kelly. Visit her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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