Last week, I went to my coach’s training in Brussels. I was really excited to get back into my training since it had been over a month since the last class. On Saturday, we did a lot of deep work on perspectives and how we see ourselves. I had many breakthroughs that day. After class, I had a scheduled appointment to practice my newly acquired coaching skill. When that was completed, I went to dinner with a classmate. We walked a bit from the hotel and found a little Italian place in the Grand Place area. I will admit I didn’t really know exactly what part of town I was in. My trip was about training and little else. Unfortunately.
We got to discussing all that we learned and how we will apply it to our clients and our lives. Then suddenly out in the corridor this man came running with a young child in his arms screaming at the top of his lungs. He was whipping him around and it was very VERY violent looking. My friend was talking, but I could not hear anything else. My body was shaking. Next thing I knew I jumped up out of my seat and went for the door. I stood at the top of the three steps of the restaurant. He was still screaming at the child. I looked around and watched the people walking by. Specifically I zoomed in on an old couple who were visibly shaken. I watched as they grew closer together and walked faster to get away. After that, I looked back at the man who had set his child down and continued to scream at the boy. The scene was something out of a movie. A child screaming and crying with the father, I assume, bent over him yelling at him to stop.
What happened next still surprises me and will stay with me for the rest of my life. I began to MARCH. I marched with fists clenched and my legs going up and down as if I were a soldier on a mission. And I was! I got right next to the man and stood in silence for a minute. I really did not know what brought me there other than the child and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. Then, I looked over at the man and he looked back at me. We had connected. I reached out and touched his arm then I spoke softly to him. “How old is he?” and “What happened?” The man told me that his son is two years old and “he just doesn’t do things like this”. I looked at him and I gave a small smile, “I have a two-year, too. It can be frustrating sometimes when they don’t listen.” He smiled back. His stance had changed. He started to try to explain more about what happened. I told him no matter what happened, he is now scaring his little boy. He was so scary in fact, it’s why I was there. Then, I showed him out how much I was trembling and said, “And I’m an adult. Imagine how scared he must be.” The man began to feel remorseful at this and explained to me that he does not hit his child. I never suggested that but I shook my head to let him know I believed him. Then, at that moment, the little boy walked over to his Papa and held on to his leg calling up to him. I pointed it out to him. The man picked his son up and embraced him. I told him sometimes we just need to walk away and collect ourselves when our kids drive us crazy. They are just not yet old enough to understand things the way we do. I thanked him for allowing me to talk to him. He smiled a big smile of relief and hugged his child and said Thank you to me. I left them there and went back to the restaurant.
When I returned to the restaurant it was only then that I was becoming fully aware of all that had just taken place. My friend was amazed. But a big part of me was still standing on that step watching the old couple scurry down the street. I don’t know how to explain it. As we started talking about it, I realized then that the man could have thrown a punch at me. But somewhere inside me I knew not to be scared. I went over there because I didn’t want that child to get hurt. When I stood there with the man something else happened and I knew I was there for him. If I had stayed in my seat who knows what I would have seen. But what I experienced was truly bigger than me. A perspective had shifted for both of us: Before talking to him, I had judged him as a violent parent. The man screaming at his child became a frustrated father of a two-year-old. For him, it was not feeling alone with his anger he had towards his son because he didn’t know how to get him to obey. I knew he wouldn’t abuse his child, but I may have never known that if I sat still and ate my dinner.
In a lot of ways, I am still working out this experience. Even writing it now, I am trembling. As my friend said that night, “It was like watching a social experiment. You know the kind they put up on YouTube where everybody walks past the dying homeless man. But you were the one that didn’t!” Her eyes went big and so did mine. I realize sometimes we need to do that thing, that scary thing, to help each other through something. Also I learned something really important. That is to not approach a situation or person with a judgment of what you think it is or who you think they are but instead open your heart with love, understanding, and compassion. Because you never know when it may be you who will need someone to step in and help you.