I was reading a book, minding my own business last week while my son was at pitching lessons. A crowd of women slowly grew near me. They were the mothers of the young softball players who were also there for lessons. I continued to read when the volume reached the point where although I wasn’t eavesdropping, I could no longer concentrate on my book, and I couldn’t help but overhear some of their conversation. I didn’t pay much attention at first, really trying to get back into my book. Normally, I socialize with the other parents, but I wasn’t having it that night. But their voices continued sounding more and more excited, fast-paced and a little hushed, the trademark sounds of gossip.
This group of women were talking about people behind their backs. And not just any people; they were dropping names right and left of people I know. They mentioned my church and my kids’ school, people I used to work with, various acquaintances. My eyes instantly stopped scanning the page of my book. My ears went into overdrive. Then, my jaw dropped a little, although I managed to keep my mouth shut as to not draw attention. I was shocked. I listened for a good 5 minutes to their conversation (clearly eavesdropping at this point), and I thought about inserting myself into their conversation to say this:
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhear you all talking. I just wanted to tell you I’m absolutely shocked by the bits of conversation I’ve heard. The names you mentioned got my attention so although I was trying not to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help hearing you speaking so many kind, supportive, and uplifting things about so many people! It saddens me to say I am more surprised that a group full of women my age are so kind and respectful than I would be to hear a group of women gossip and trash-talk people behind their backs. I heard what you said about ____ and ____, and I agree! And I loved what you said about _____!”
I would have gone on to tell them, “We often forget strangers are watching. People are listening. Our children are watching. Our children are listening. What excellent role models you are being for your daughters and my son right now. Thank you for uplifting instead of tearing down. You are awesome women!”
This memory has stayed with me for a full week now. I think if I see any of them again, I might make a point to say something. I think they need to know someone saw/heard them and was stunned by their “alarming behavior.” After all, we are never too old to learn. And we’re never too old to be recognized for doing the right thing.