Life Lessons: Taught By a Toddler

Many years ago, we had an eighteen-month-old foster daughter who was the sweetest little girl you’d ever want to meet. We took her into our family when she was three months old, just a little bundle of potential, but already I could tell she’d be a loving person. And always ready for fun.

She loved to play dolls with my five year old daughter. They were inseparable really. It was heartwarming to see how well they bonded, which made my toddler’s behavior one day so unexplainable.

She normally woke up from naps with a huge grin and a hug for mom. But not that day. She was grumpy and quick to dissolve into tears. Even the offer of her favorite snack wouldn’t lure her into a good mood. What’s going on?

No fever. No new teeth popping up. Hmmm. I was really hoping it wasn’t the ‘terrible two’s’ making an early entrance.

After two days of this, the whole house was tipping to one side. None of us could figure out what was wrong. Our little girl’s once booming appetite continued to nosedive, right along with her attitude.

Day three arrived. So did the answer to her sudden change in personality. I walked into her room to get her ready for the day, and noticed some random red spots on her tummy. Looking a her back, yep, same thing. Holy Cow. This child has the chicken pox.

Of course she’d feel crabby. My five-year-old had her own case of it two weeks before, and I just figured that our toddler dodged it. Yeah well, not so much.

Whenever I think back to that morning, I’m reminded of the saying, “You never know what people are going through.” I thought my toddler was just acting out. Little did I know she was beginning her battle with that hidden virus.

I’ve encountered salespeople who were rude, short-tempered, or just downright dismissive. I’m sure you have too. It’s very easy to get offended, or to be tempted to respond in kind. “How sad that people can let their negative emotions pop to the surface so easily,” we think. “Why can’t they just look at the bright side of life?”

But now I understand a little better. How do I know what that rude salesperson is facing in his own life? Flat tires. A failing relationship. A rejection letter in response to an application. These are only a few of the reasons that could have reached into his life and tipped the scales toward bitterness.

Maybe that person is really suffering today.

And whether it’s true that the crabby, impatient people we meet are facing hardships or not, I can still respond with calm and patience because I’ll just never know. I think it’s much better to treat someone with kindness and think the best, than to get angry and think the worst.

Our foster daughter sailed through the chicken pox, and went on to be the happy little girl we knew she was.

That gives me a lot of hope. Who knows? With a little kindness and patience from me, that sales clerk might make a fast recovery too.


Surrounded by the Spirit on Facebook

Dear Friends, I’ve decided to take the summer off from blogging. We have some trips planned, and family visits too, so I know it would be hard to keep up here. I hope you all have a restful and blessed few months, and I’ll see you back here in September!

I may still post on the Facebook page for the blog from time to time, so I hope to see you there.


52 thoughts on “Life Lessons: Taught By a Toddler

  1. Thanks for the wonderful stories and spiritual direction you sent my way this year.
    Have a restful, safe and fun summer with family and friends.
    I look forward to your return in fall. The Lord’s blessings be with you.

    • Hi Jean! Thank you for your lovely comment, it really means a lot. Thank you too for your hopes for my summer, I hope the same for you.

      May God bless us both in the warm season of summer, bringing us closer and closer to himself and to his people.
      God bless,

  2. Showing kindness toward others, no matter what the situation, does not cost a thing, and does our hearts good even if we can’t improve someone else’s mood or mindset.
    And wow, Ceil, that’s a long break you’re taking! Please know you will be missed!
    Blessings, and have a restful vacation!

    • Hi Martha! Such a good point about what little it costs to be kind to each other. And it takes so little! Just a smile or a listening ear goes a very long way. Who knows how much it means to another person who might be hurting?

      It is a long break Martha, especially in the blog land. I hope that I will come back refreshed and ready to dive in again to writing regularly. And visiting you for sure. I really enjoy following your life and reading about your faith. Thank you for always inspiring me.

      God bless,

  3. I love this reflection! I just came from Mass in our chapel and during Mass I thought of an old saying that I’d been repeating recently…”I have to choose my battles.” It suddenly came to me that what I’m seeing as a series of battles is really a relationship. And that gave me such peace. Then I read your blog and that was simply further confirmation. Thank you for being God’s voice!

    • Hi Sr. Ann! How nice to see you again, it’s been a long time!
      I’m so glad that God gave you light about your relationship, and what a grace that this post could confirm it for you. Thank you so much for sharing with me.

      God bless! Have a wonderful summer, and I hope to see you back here in the fall,

  4. We were foster parents, too. Lots of lessons learned during that period of our lives.
    Have a wonderful summer, Ceil! See you in the fall!

    • Hi Pam! You were a foster parent too? I really found it to be a rewarding experience, and I’m so glad my kids could experience it too. I’m sure you feel the same way.

      Thank you for your summer wishes, I hope you have a wonderful summer too!

  5. This was good to read, Ceil! It made me want to find a rude salesperson and be kind to them.

    Hope you enjoy your summer! We are going to the beach (hopefully) and bagpiping in Vermont.

    Take Care,
    Sandi at Dandelion Tea

    • Hi Sandi! Bagpiping in Vermont??? There has to be a story here, which I’d love to hear sometime.

      I hope you do get to the beach, I just love water. We rented a house for a week in July that’s near Lake Michigan and I can’t wait. God bless your summer adventures!

      • Hubby is a piper. We go to a school in Vermont in the summer. We even camp, in a tent, with our kids. I still can’t believe I sleep outside. It’s fun!

        • That is so cool!

          I used to camp with the family when the kids were in grammar school. Nowadays, I know my back couldn’t take a sleeping bag on the ground. I’m glad I did it when I could!

  6. Such a wonderful post, Ceil, which drew tears to my eyes. Yes, I have come across those types of sales people and I feel that they are in the wrong job! Jobs such as this require people skills. I hope you have a wonder filled summer, and I appreciate all you share.

    • Hi Linda! Thank you for sharing how the words here affected you, it means a lot. I appreciate your supportive comment.

      You have a good point about the attitude of people who have work with the public. We all need to see the needs of others, and that’s a hard thing to do sometimes. I hope I can remember my own words when I see another worker who isn’t in the best mood.

      Have a great summer my friend! I’ll see you in the fall,

  7. That is a great thing to remember, Ceil. It is so true that we never really know what is going on under the surface when someone else comes across as rude or grumpy. It is better to assume the best of them and make an effort to be friendly and caring. I hope you enjoy your break over the summer. I’ll miss you posts, but hope you have a lovely time with family and enjoy your trips.

    • Hi Lesley! I agree, just because someone else is grumpy, it doesn’t mean that I have to be in return. It could have been a really bad day for that person.

      Thank you for your good wishes for the summer, I appreciate it! I hope you have a wonderful warm season, and I’ll see you back in the fall for sure,

  8. I will miss you and your presence in blogland, sweet friend. Thank you for all of your encouragement, and for another wonderful post. It reminds me of a bluegrass song I love. Here is the link, in case you get a few minutes to listen:
    Enjoy your summer and break! Lord willing, we will “see” you here in the fall!

    • Hi Cheryl! I wil miss you, and your posts while I’m gone. I will be coming back in the fall, so I look forward to continuing our blog-relationship then!

      Thank you for the link, I’ll check it out for sure. God bless, and you and your family are in my prayers,

    • Oh Cecelia! What a lovely comment, you really reached my heart. Thank you for your encouraging words.

      May peace and blessings be yours too, and I’ll see you in the fall!

  9. Have a bliss-full summer, Ceil. I’ve always admired your willingness to take extended breaks from blogging so you can focus on what’s most important.

    Still … please know I join the throngs that will miss you. And if you want to email a couple of times here and there, I’d love to keep in touch.


    • Hi Linda! I will try to have a relaxing and productive summer too. Right now I’m out of town with my daughter’s family just visiting and helping out. We’re going to a wedding on Friday. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to do without the added pressure of writing. I now I’ll get back to it in the fall for sure.

      I’d love to keep in touch! How kind of you to mention emailing. I”ll check in with you, I promise. You do the same!

  10. It is so true that things are not always as they appear. And it’s been proven that a smile can lift another no matter how hard they seem to be on the outside. What an experience that must have been to be a foster family. I’m sure your smile brightened that little girl’s life.

    • Hi Lynn! I think I have read about how smiles can lift spirits, your comment reminded me of that.
      It was a really great experience to be a foster family, and was enlightening from so many different aspects. I never regretted it.

      Have a peaceful night,

  11. It’s so true – we don’t know what other people are dealing with but can be quick to judge. Thank you for your sweet reminder.
    Enjoy your summer – we’ll miss you!

    • Hi Mari! This was fun to remember and write about, and I’m so glad it was a good reminder to you as well. I appreciate your telling me!

      You have a wonderful summer too, and I’ll see you back in the fall,

    • Hi Bill! Thank you for your good wishes Bill. I hope my summer will be fantastic!

      I’m sorry you’re not on FB, but yes, I’ll definitely be back in the fall.
      Have a wonderful summer too!

  12. Such great advice, Ceil. We never know what is going on inside a person. Even a smile can give someone a boost in their day. What ever happened to your foster daughter?
    I will miss you, my friend, but I hope you have a fun and relaxing time this summer with lots of time for soul rest. Love and hugs to you!

    • Hi Trudy! This young lady was adopted by her maternal grandparents, and moved out of state. We got some photos for a while, but that stopped many years ago. I’ll always have my memories of her though.

      Thank you for your kind comments about my break, I’ll miss reading you too! But I’ll be back in the fall, and I’ll see you then.

  13. Hi Ceil! Thanks for this lovely reminder that there is more than meets the eye when others exhibit difficult behaviors. While we clearly need each other, relationships can be oh so tricking–many “landmines” to avoid.

    Have a wonderful summer; I’ll miss reading your posts.



    • Hi Kim! Thank you for visiting today, and it’s so true that people can cover what’s going on with them with attitudes that really put us off. It does make it tricky, you are so right.

      Thank you for your good wishes, God bless you, and I’ll see you back here in the fall!

    • Hi Jean! Thank you for your encouraging comment my friend. Your kindness to me here won’t be forgotten!

      It’s good to try and see that all of the people we meet are our brothers and sisters and may be having tough days. We can turn those days around with something as easy as a smile.
      Have a peaceful night,

  14. I agree totally, Ceil, and often say the same thing. We never know what’s hidden behind those eyes. Kindness is cheap and often pays huge dividends!
    Great post!
    Blessings, My Friend!

    • Hi Lulu! Thanks for your supportive comment my friend. It’s good that we share this thought and make sure that we try to be kind to anyone having a bad day.

      Have a peaceful night,

  15. Lovely encouragement to give all people the benefit of the doubt. We really do not know what all they cope with and would want the same for ourselves. Have a great summer enjoying your family and all activities. See you in the fall.


    • Hi Mary! I hope you have a wonderful summer too, and enjoy your family and friends in sunny Arizona. You and your sister are still on my mind and heart, may God bless you and your family, and I’ll see you again in the fall.

      Blessings always,

  16. Dear Ceil, what a precious reminder for us today to really consider what that person may be going through or dealing with in life. I love your posts. Always, always, ministers to my heart. I do hope that you enjoy your summer dear lady. Have some fun. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

    • Hi Cindy! Thank you so much for your encouragement in your comment. I am so touched that you like the posts here.

      I hope you have a great summer too, and I will see you again the fall. I truly appreciate your support, and I hope I can do that for you too on your blog!

  17. Ah yes… this is such an important message Ceil! And I didn’t know you had a foster child- sweet baby girl! I love this so very much. I always need a reminder… You just never know.

    Have a BEAUTIFUL WONDERFUL SUMMER!! I will miss you, friend.

    • Hi Chris! We were involved in foster care for almost ten years. It was quite an adventure for the whole family!

      You have a wonderful summer too…I know you’ll be busy with swimming 🙂


  18. This is so true, always. You never know what a person is going through, and you never know how the kindnesses you extend can impact them in a positive way. Enjoy your break! Have a blessed summer! 🙂

  19. That is so true Ceil,
    we never know what a person is going through. My friend and I were visitors in a prison some years ago. There was one man in there who had denied killing someone. While we were there, every night for a long time he had a dream showing him killing this man. He had been on drugs at the time and the drugs had hidden from his mind what he had done. After his dream he cried continually, he could not forgive himself. We told him that God would forgive him (because he was repentant). It transformed him.
    People only saw this person as a murderer, they only saw a part of the jigsaw puzzle. Who are we to judge?
    God bless you Ceil for sharing.

    • Hi Brenda! What an amazing experience you had visiting this man. I know you made a big difference in his life.

      Jesus says we should visit those in prison…you are doing his work on earth.
      God bless!

  20. Wise words. It’s easy to judge and get offended. But we simply don’t know the struggles others are facing. A kind words can help all involved.

    • Hi TC! Yes, kind words have the power to change things. It’s something I have to remember daily, believe me. How do I know what someone else is going through?

      Hope you’re having a great summer so far!

  21. Hi Ceil! As you can see by this VERY late response, that my summer has been so very busy too! I’m just settling down inside today because the weather outside is too hot to be working in the garden, so I am catching up with my dear blogging friends!

    I truly enjoyed your parable between the situation with your foster daughter, and how we may not really know or understand what is going on in people’s lives to make them act the way they do. We are all so quick to judge, and what a great lesson to remind us that we need to be more compassionate and understanding of those we meet.

    I hope your summer is going well, and that you are enjoying special moments with your family! See you in September 🙂

    • Hi MM! Thank you for dropping by! Can you believe it’s too hot to work outside? I remember so many photos of snow on your blog this year.

      It’s been busy here, but fun. We just saw my son and his family, and now my daughter and her children are coming for a visit. It’s so great to keep up with the grands!

      I’ll see you in September for sure,

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