A teenage girl stares at her mother who waits patiently and smiles kindly at the elderly man whose unfamiliarity with paying electronically is holding up the line at the register. “Why were you smiling at that guy?” the daughter asks on their way out, her impatience showing up front and center. “Why wouldn’t I?” her mother responds softly, affording her daughter at least as much courtesy as she gave the stranger. “Does he really need another angry face letting him know he’s taking too long to pay?”

And maybe the daughter says, “Whatever.” Or maybe she just rolls her eyes and looks away. Or maybe she says nothing at all but is reminded of all the times she has been made to wait for one reason or another and had made it a point to let people know.

Teaching moments can never be lectures or reprimands because the authenticity of the moment is missing. It’s this authenticity that works almost like enzymes do, carrying elements across the barriers our bodies put in place for protection. Except this time it’s the barriers people themselves put up, and they are not within people but between people. Authenticity is the disarming force which carries messages across the barriers that have been in place against “life lessons.”

— Janet Sasson Edgette