Sometimes, even brief interactions with other parents can make a meaningful difference.

I remember sitting in the doctor’s office one day, not yet pregnant, but wanting a baby more than I had ever wanted anything. It was like a prayer I never stopped praying.

Please, please, please.

A young woman who had just found out she was pregnant walked from the exam room into the lobby, clearly furious to be carrying a baby and loudly lamenting her fate to whoever was on the other end of her cellphone. She rolled her eyes and sighed a long, frustrated breath.

I started sobbing so uncontrollably that I literally couldn’t speak to the nurse when she called my name. How could God give a baby to someone who is so angry about it while I sit here willing to do anything—everything—for a little human I will love to the ends of the earth?

My sweet and suddenly panicked husband had no idea why I was nearly hyperventilating. The nurse, who had watched the scene play out, handed me an entire box of tissues, sat, and held my hand as I cried. “I know, honey,” she whispered, as tears welled in her own eyes. “I know.”

I don’t know that nurse’s name and never saw her again, because that was our only trip to that particular office. But on a journey that was sometimes tough, she is among my favorite heroes.

We all know it takes a village. And we’re pretty good about celebrating our villages, aren’t we? Our parents. Our siblings. The teachers who pour their hearts into our little humans. The dads who coach them. The moms who sit beside us and watch soccer games and basketball games and end up knowing the most intimate details of our lives.

But I was thinking recently about that nurse, and about these other quiet heroes—the people who have walked into my village just long enough to make a meaningful difference. People whose names I don’t remember—or, in some cases, never even knew in the first place.

There was the woman in the grocery store line when Coop was probably 2. He was throwing a rare tantrum—as in, on the ground, screaming—and I hadn’t a clue what to do. I was mortified. Do I just pretend he’s not my kid? I tried pleading, then negotiating, then threatening in the best whisper-yell I could muster. Nothing. I started to walk away, thinking he might have no choice but to follow. He didn’t even notice. A woman came from seemingly out of nowhere, bent down and asked Coop a question. I don’t know what she asked, but he stopped crying and answered. She kept talking to him until he was standing, laughing and walking out of the store with me as if nothing had happened.

“Thank you,” I said as we walked through the parking lot.

She smiled, her eyes wise and kind. “I taught for many years,” she said. “He’s a good little boy.”

It would have been easy for her to roll her eyes and grumble. Or to silently judge me. Or to offer advice on how I could have better handled the situation. Instead, she helped. And she didn’t make me feel like a horrible mother while saving the day.

Then there was the woman I once talked to who shared that her son had hated high school. He wasn’t an athlete, or a musician, or part of any particular group. He felt like a misfit. He grew more miserable by the day. Unhappy. Depressed. She was a successful executive who grew increasingly worried, afraid he might be suicidal. So she quit her job, moved to Italy and enrolled them both in art school.

Her son learned the world was a whole lot bigger than his high school halls, and he found a new passion for life. He became a successful filmmaker, and she had no regrets.

I think of that woman often—her fierce and unrelenting love, a love that uprooted her existence and may have ultimately saved her child.

That woman didn’t mean to help me by sharing her story, yet she did. I think of how she trusted her mother’s intuition. How she didn’t let any very understandable realities stand in her way of doing what she felt was right. How she unapologetically made the bold move. Her story inspires me still.

But there are many more village visitors, too. (Special shoutout to every stranger who played peekaboo and every server who has immediately brought the bread basket upon spotting a kid at the table, am I right?)

So to my soul sister nurse, my grocery angel, the fierce Italian mom and so many others who have understood, who have stepped in, who have inspired and who have brought the bread basket pronto—thank you.

This momming thing isn’t always easy. But sometimes, knowing one momma has another’s back is just what we need to get through the day—or, at the very least, out of the grocery store.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.

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