Part of the Solution

by Joanie Butman


"Your either part of the solution or part of the problem."

Eldridge Cleaver


This story isn’t dramatic or life defining, but it certainly illustrates the power even the smallest of choices can wield and that teachable moments can happen anywhere. Did it change the course of my life? No, but it changed the way I approached life’s minor annoyances going forward.

I was getting a pedicure recently, savoring the moment of peace and quiet and using it to finish a writing project. Half way through this long-awaited luxury, a woman sat in the chair next to me with a toddler. The only thing worse I can think of is boarding a plane for a long flight only to realize you have the center seat with parents and toddlers on either side. Anyway, as this child began a predictable series of screaming, crying, and knocking over everything in sight, I grew more and more agitated by the minute. I wasn’t annoyed with her, but with the mother. A toddler can’t be expected to behave in this situation, and it was unfair of the mother to put her in it. This was a defining moment – not of earth shattering proportions, but still a valuable life lesson given in the most unlikely of places. As I sat there trying to write and getting more and more annoyed, I was faced with a choice.

I could continue to stew in self-righteous indignation or I could do the right thing and offer a solution. As soon as I realized that fact, my irritation vanished. I didn’t go so far as to interrupt my pedicure— I’m not that self-sacrificing—but as soon as I was finished, I went to the mother, introduced myself, and offered to take the child for a walk for the next 45 minutes so she could enjoy the remainder of her manicure. I was the mother of toddlers at one time so I could relate to the desperation that drove her to think that she could do this with a toddler in tow. Surprisingly, she agreed to relinquish her child to a complete stranger and I left my purse behind as confirmation that I would definitely be coming back. For the next 45 minutes we enjoyed a pleasant walk through town as the little girl took a much-needed nap in her stroller, and all was well. I didn’t leave irritated. She was taken out of an impossible situation, her mother enjoyed a moment of peace, and the applause when I left with the baby confirmed that the other customers in the nail salon were grateful as well. Everyone was happy with very little effort on my part.

What did I learn? You can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.