Keeping your cool as a parent when someone criticizes your parenting skills can be tough. But it’s especially hard when your child is sick and someone makes a comment without even knowing your situation. So when a Nebraska man stayed calm and reasonable and turned an adversarial moment into a teachable one, his post went viral.
Why a Rude Stranger Yelled at a Father and His Daughter
Back in 2018, Brent Gehring was in Boston with his six-year-old daughter. Emma was just seven months old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and after six rounds of chemo, she was unable to walk without a walker. So after dinner, her dad carried her across the street. That’s when a stranger with poor communication skills suddenly began yelling at them.
“A man yelled at me from 30 feet away: ‘What the f—?’ he yelled,” Gehring later recounted on Facebook. “Make her walk. That’s what is wrong with kids today.”
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In that moment, Gehring froze. Just earlier that day the family had learned Emma would need a seventh round of chemo.
I had a choice to make at that time. Can I make myself feel better by screaming at him or can I teach him something about life? I won’t lie to you and tell you that it was an easy choice.
In the end, Gehring did the calm (and hopeful) thing and walked over to the stranger with his child in his arms and asked him if he was referring to his daughter. “Hell yes,” the man replied.
Why One Father Chose to Educate Instead of React
Gehring calmly looked at the stranger and decided to educate rather than react. “My daughter has been carrying my faith and my strength for the past five years since she was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” he said. “She can’t walk but I am happy to carry her because of all the amazing things she has taught me through the years. So I would advise you not to address my daughter in any way other than respectful.”
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In the end, Gehring says he and the other man both shared tears. He added the man needed to have his eyes opened to what real life and love are and that good can come from any situation. Since Gehring posted his story it’s been shared nearly 2,000 times and picked up by various outlets.
This story is only important if it serves as a reminder that you don’t always know the whole story so don’t judge others. You have the power to make people’s days better or worse. What did you do today?? What will you do tomorrow??
According to a local ABC News outlet, Emma lost her battle with cancer back in 2020. She passed away at the end of the year surrounded by friends and family. Despite the operations and chemo, the tumor had grown and was putting pressure on her brain, and because of its position, it was inoperable.
“We have no comprehension of how to do this thing called life without Emma, but we will go forward knowing that she is without pain for the first time in her life. We look forward to the day we see her again someday in heaven,” the Emma Strong Facebook page shared on Dec. 11, 2020. “Emma we will miss you more than you can ever understand.”
How One Dad Proved the Importance of Practicing Compassion
Gehring’s post went viral for several reasons. One, it reminds us we never fully know a person’s situation and it’s important to try not to judge others even if we don’t agree with what they’re doing. Two, it’s tough to be a parent on the best of days, but it’s unfathomably hard to be the parent of a sick child or a kid with a disability. Every kid and every parent are different, which always makes it important to practice understanding and compassion.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from this story is that even on your worst days, try and understand, forgive and educate others even when they themselves are the ones passing judgment. Had Gehring reacted with anger, nothing good would have really come out of that situation. Instead, he and Emma walked away that day with one more person in the world potentially practicing kindness towards others instead of anger.
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It’s a reminder to try and do the same in our own lives too. Smile and be cheerful towards someone who is being grumpy rather than taking it personally or giving back similar energy. Shrug off the person who questions the way you feed or play with your kid the next time you’re at a park. Or stop and take a second to chat with the person who gave you a dirty look rather than writing them off as sour.
Because as Gehring wanted everyone to know following his experience with his daughter, life is just as much about the energy you give out as the energy you receive. With a little patience and a change of perspective good can hopefully come from almost any situation.
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Everyone is going through a struggle others don’t know about, so don’t judge someone without knowing the whole story.