Presuming Charity in the Grocery Store

The great Mrs. Fulwiler wrote a very neat piece discussing her recent experience using a chapel veil at Mass.  I've never worn a veil (who knows, maybe someday) but a sentence popped out at me from her reflections:

"It was at that moment that I realized that this exercise in head covering brought with it an important, and surprisingly difficult, opportunity for spiritual growth: to presume other people’s charity."

Sometimes we are SO ready to be offended and judged, aren't we?  We go to the grocery store with our x number of kids and we are just waiting for the inevitable "are they all yours?" or the ever popular "you've got your hands full!"  (The comments I get are usually directed at my all male crew.  "Poor thing!"  "Didn't get your girl, eh?"  "You must be a saint!")  And we answer either charitably or snarkily and walk away muttering to ourselves and planning the perfect online rant about how people are just so ruuude.

But wait.
 What if, rather than presuming that all these people are nefarious culture of death minions who want to tie us down and forcibly sterilize us, we instead decide to presume upon their charity?  What if we assume they are merely surprised (dare I say even happy?) to see that many children?  What if we silence the inner skeptic and act like maybe that person is just attempting to make conversation?  What if they are simply making an observation because, like it or not dear mother of three, four, five, or more children, your hands ARE full!  And the Scriptures say repeatedly that that is a very very good thing!  (Maybe that person believes that, too!)

Perhaps we can make it a practice to presume that the person making the comment is a lovely person just trying to make conversation or admire your children or even getting ready to offer a hand.  It may or may not be true but at the very least we will know that our hearts are pure.  Perhaps instead of a snarky reply we can simply answer with a pure non-cynical response and even dare to engage in a friendly conversation.   Perhaps we can make it a habit to mutter a prayer for that person rather than a rant.  Perhaps our children will then learn that people are good and that not everyone is out to get us.  Perhaps we can even soften a few hearts.
And when someone observes how full are our hands, perhaps we can smile sincerely and thank God that they are.


  1. This is a good reminder. You wrote something, a long time ago, about how comments about your big family never bother you (but comments about a lack of girl do). It has stuck with me, and I have tried to be less defensive when responding to people's comments regarding our third! You know, I was SO surprised how awesome people were when we announced our third. I was certain we would get nothing but sarcastic comments. And though we got some, the majority were people super psyched for us. I think so often, the bad comments stick out and make us defensive- and we choose to focus on those. OR, they make us hear other comments in a way they were not intended. I am going to work on this! Thanks!!!

  2. I agree completely. I had a realization years back that whether I had four children out with me or only two, I often got the same comment "you've got your hands full." I decided that it was just a way for most people to start a conversation. I finally came up with the response, "Yes, thankfully we do!" With six kids, we are hard to miss! There are some who are obviously surprised because they are waiting to hear the dreadfulness of my situation. Most people however, tell me how they were part of a big family, how adorable the kids are, how they just don't see big families anymore, or something else nice. A friend reminded me it is much better to witness to them with love for my big family than with a snarky comment.

  3. I heartily agree - I am ashamed to admit how many times I've been ready to write someone off with their comments about all the kids only to realize they were just trying to start conversation and actually had very charitable things to say. Great post!!


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