A People Trick that May Change Your Life or Someone Who Crosses It

There’s a little people trick I do on a regular basis. It’s not a big deal. Many of y’all may already do this, or something similar, but I can’t shake the urge to blog about it, so here’s the thing. I look into your face and I try to see the little you. I do it in all sorts of situations but mostly if you are frustrating me in some way.  (How’s that for total honesty?) There’s something about trying to see the little you that softens my heart. I remember precisely when I started doing this.

I was a young mother with two small children. For a few magical years, both of my sisters lived here in my small town.  We spent many an afternoon congregated up at Mama’s, visiting and running after our combined broods– six children under four, two per sister. (Rhonda would go on to break the pattern and add a third child but not until she had moved to Texas.) For a period of time, those days were also enriched by the presence of my mother’s daddy, Papaw Stone. In that strange way that happens with so many couples who’ve been married for most of their lives, Papaw didn’t live long after Grandma Stone died, but the short time after she passed on during which he lived with Mama coincided with the young married child rearing season of my life and produced some of my most treasured memories.

Not that our visits were always Hallmark card fodder. It wouldn’t serve any purpose to suggest otherwise. Papaw was suffering from kidney failure and other health issues. By that time in his life, his nerves weren’t the best. Sometimes he got tense around a houseful of wild young-uns and it would be up to us to create a buffer zone and make sure the kids played outdoors. And yet, for the most part, Papaw and his great grands were big buddies. I loved seeing my children interact with him, loved hearing him tell them stories, loved seeing their soft little hands in his aged ones.

Papaw may have been a retired preacher, but he had never retired from storytelling.  He was full of “I remember when” stories, and most of the tales hearkened from the years when he felt like a game changer in life instead of a spectator with little to no influence. I was young, remember. Watching Papaw depend on my mother was my first up close look at how it must feel to age. I had known Papaw when he was stronger and more capable. It wasn’t hard to remember that Papaw when the new one chaffed at being told he could no longer drive.  I recall looking into his face and trying to imagine what my grandfather must have been like as a little boy. That one simple exercise led to my discovery and the practice I continue today.

Thinking of people as the little kids they once were can change the way you look at a person. It’s like their exteriors, however tender or tough they may be, almost melt away before your eyes. It’s easy to love children, isn’t it?

Everyone has hopes and dreams and plans when they’re young. Some fulfill them, others live with regrets. Spending a moment trying to imagine that grumpy stranger in line with me at the big box store as a wide eyed child in the most innocent,  most impressionable, most trusting time of his or her life (before living itself started leaving marks on their souls) manages somehow to soften my response towards whatever behavior or attitude is getting under my skin. And yes, the trick works with relatives– and bonus– you usually have old photographs to aid the exercise! (Not that all of mine aren’t perfectly precious! *grin*)

No, my “see ’em little” trick doesn’t work every time– there is no saint on this side of the screen— but it works often enough that the practice has become a habit I just have to pass along. It’s yours now. Let me know what you do with it.


Does everyone already know this trick? 🙂 Talk to me.


About Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Known as The Belle of All Things Southern, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a national best-selling author, speaker, radio host, and columnist from Louisiana.
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8 Responses to A People Trick that May Change Your Life or Someone Who Crosses It

  1. Nicole Seitz says:

    I see my children as babies every time I need to…it helps to ease any frustration with the moment. And yes, friend, this speaks to me. There is something very loveable about our inner child. Go get ’em!

  2. Will do. Forever indebted to you for all of your feedback, advice, and friendship. Thanking Father for you!

  3. Jackie Smith says:

    What great idea! I will try that. The title of our SS lesson tomorrow is Do You Show Respect to Others? How great that you blogged this in time for me to use it in SS with your permission, of course. Is that alright with you?

  4. You may absolutely, unequivocably share– with my blessings!

  5. tanya says:

    mmmmm, wondering what ‘little child’ you see when you look at me??!!!! thing is, I am not sure I ever ‘grew’ up enough to change…… could be scary! And what a wonderful man Papaw Stone was, and you listened and learned from him!

  6. Thanks, Tanya– I don’t have to look for your little child. You are endearing enough as is. 🙂

  7. Tammy C says:

    Thanks for giving this a name. I do this at the nursing home, in doctor’s offices, grocery store lines, etc. When someone is elderly, moving slowly or with difficulties, grumpy, etc, it helps to remember they weren’t always that way. AND it’s a reminder that even if we feel like we’re in the prime of our lives, we won’t always be. It pays to take a peek at the “little you” or even the “younger”, “healthier”, “happier”. Makes it easier to stop & smell the roses now, and to count my blessings.

  8. Beautiful, Tammy! Thanks for adding your thoughts, especially the “healthier” and “happier” ideas. I enjoyed them 🙂

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