Words stick. Negative ones are especially sticky.
It can feel strange to tell someone when you notice something beautiful about them and it can be unusual to hear, but it lasts and can make the world of difference.
One moment that has stayed with me was from an evening last winter when leaving the local health centre. It was cold and dark and I just wanted to get home. As I crossed the car park, I noticed a mum and her young son. She was lifting him out of his special needs buggy to get him into the car and he sounded distressed. The noise he made was loud and he seemed to struggle against her. The mum had lots to pack away into the car but she stopped everything and comforted her son. She held him, speaking gently to him with reassurance as he writhed and cried. I’m not sure what was happening for him, but she clearly did and watching her calm him moved me. It was such a beautiful moment. I was conscious of wanting to help but not wanting to make matters worse so I got into my car and waited until she had her son seated in the car. I then reversed out of my space, wound down my window and said “Excuse me”. She looked up sharply with a worried expression, expecting a complaint maybe. I said “I saw you with your son just now and seeing the way you calmed him was beautiful to watch”. She was clearly taken aback and thanked me with an exhaustion in her eyes that I recognised. I drove off with tears in my eyes at being able to see one of life’s beautiful moments in what I’m sure was a stressful situation for the mum.
My introvert self fought over saying anything but something about this mum doing what she was doing, quietly in the dark of the car park needed recognising. The vulnerability I felt in reaching out was mirroring the vulnerability of the mum with her son. It felt important to tell her. I will never know the impact it had but it felt worth the discomfort to let her see herself how I did in that moment, to notice her in the dark and tell her that I saw something beautiful.