Mar 042013

Chase and I found ourselves in the middle of a traffic teachable moment yesterday, during which I used every bit of my self control to avoid sticking my head out the window and screaming into the Universe all the curse words I know. ALL of them. Glad I didn’t.

Remember the Onion Man?





Last weekend, Chase and I were grocery shopping in the produce section and he was having a blast weighing each new bag of vegetables I collected. I handed him a bag of tomatoes and he walked over to the scale and waited patiently in line. As I watched, an elderly man walked up behind Chase, scowled at him for a moment, and stepped in front of him, bumping Chase out of the way. Chase looked shocked and scared. I left my cart and walked over to Chase, stood by him and said loudly, “Are you all right honey? I saw what that man did to you. That was very, very wrong and rude.” Chase said nothing, the Grumpy Old man said nothing. Chase and I held hands and waited.

When the man was finished weighing his bag, he turned around quickly and all of his onions spilled out of his bag and on to the dirty floor. The three of us froze for a moment. Then Chase looked up at me and I motioned toward the floor. Chase and I got down on our hands and knees and started collecting onions while the old man grouchily and grudgingly accepted them from our hands and put them back into his bag. After Chase and I retrieved the last onion, the old man walked away. Chase and I did too, and we didn’t discuss the event until we got back in the car.

On the drive home, Chase said through tears, “Mommy, I’ve had a frustrating day. That man cut right in front of me and that was wrong. And we had to help him pick up his onions! Why did we do that? That didn’t make any sense.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Chase, that man was acting horribly wasn’t he? He seemed to have a very angry heart. I’m so sorry that happened to you. But if we didn’t help him with his onions, do you think we would have made his heart softer or angrier?”

Angrier, Chase said.

“Since we did help him, do you think that might have made his heart softer?”

“Maybe,” Chase said.

“But you know what, Chase? I understand how you feel. I didn’t want to help that man with his onions. You know what I wanted to do?”


“I wanted to kick him really hard in the shin. I was very angry with that man for treating you badly. But sometimes doing what we really want to do, if it’s going to add more anger, isn’t the right thing to do. Even if it feels good at the time. If we wouldn’t have helped that old man, we might have felt good for a second, but then I bet we would have felt really, really yucky about ourselves for a long time. You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love. ”

And then this brilliant smile broke out on Chase’s face that was the smile of a heart recognizing the truth. It was a smile of a promise kept. It was the best smile I have ever seen, on any of my children. It was a smile that said: Oh, I see. Sometimes we actually do what we talk about doing. And this is how it feels.

God, it was a good moment. It may have been my best mommy moment ever.

Thanks, Grumpy Old Onion Man.




Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  51 Responses to “Chase and The Onion Man”

  1. […] the good things and the let the bad ones slide off my back. So when I came across this post on Momastery (another of my favorite blogs), it stuck with me. […]

  2. Makes me think of how my Mom once called me intense, and meant it as “way too!” and in the same day my off-the-charts friend called me intense and meant it as the hugest compliment she could give. Might as well just be me since the world isn’t in agreement whether its good or bad anyway, right???

  3. Such a beautiful, teachable moment–for our children AND for us. Thank you for sharing another inspiring story. This is the tale of my “Onion Man”–only is was a disheveled lady. I might die if you actually read it.

  4. My child is now a young adult, and I hope I said some of the right things to her along the way. I’m so glad you had the right words to say and the right actions to teach.

  5. That is doing – not just talking about. Thank you for sharing this pure moment.

  6. […] CHASE AND THE ONION MAN You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love. […]

  7. Great story. Great lesson for all of us. I like the grumpy onion man too. :) Especially love this: “People who behave badly still need love. ”

  8. Teaching to be proactive rather than reactive…awesome.

    Not letting the negative win….double awesome.

    Interesting that he is “the Onion Man.” Maybe you helped peel back a layer of anger or hurt for him…and maybe not. But no matter what, the choice that you and Chase made was to make the world a little less cruddy. Triple awesome.

  9. Wow Glennon, what a beautiful moment of clarity you had with Chase. I so often find that I don’t know what to say and that was beautiful and I’m going to print it out and post it on my bulletin board at my desk so I can read it lots and lots. Cause it’s exactly what I believe and we as a family reach out to some challenging people. I believe that is what we are called to do, but sometimes I don’t know how to explain the point of those sacrafices to my kids. If I read this enough, I’ll remember it even if someone asks me a question about this kind of love in the middle of our daily chaos!

  10. I really loved this story, well parable really. Sister is going through a hard time. As am I. She said she felt like the grumpy old man. I said I felt like the onions…

  11. I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I had to say thank you for this post. I read it this morning. And then this afternoon I read something stupid on the Internet (there’s so much of it, isn’t there?), something that made me angry and frustrated and wanting to yell at people who just don’t get it. And I typed out an angry comment in response. But your post made me realize that responding in anger wasn’t going to make anything better. So I got off the computer and went and gave my kids big hugs instead.

    I’m still a little angry and frustrated. But I wasn’t a jerk on the Internet today, and maybe I was even a better mom. Thank you.

  12. These are beautiful moments, gifts for little souls… I remember this kind of moment when I was a child… and I’m forever grateful for that “teachable moment”.. Santa threw candy canes at a parade when I was 4 and my mom coached me to share my special Santa candy with a little boy standing right beside me who had not been given any and was really upset…. She taught me in that moment to share my Joy, and to always be aware of others’ joy and pain. THESE moments set the tone for a lifetime…. Bravo Mamma.. Well done!

  13. That Grumpy Old Man…………gave you such a great opportunity to teach Chase something….for him to experience that whole incident. And then to talk about it. I often think about grumpy/grouchy/cranky people and wonder……….maybe they are living with chronic pain, maybe they are so very lonely, maybe they have no one to love them. I give them a smile – it doesn’t cost me anything, takes only a second or two, and that grouchy, cranky person may think about that smile and it just may give them a change of heart.

  14. Love wins every time!

  15. You did so good Glennon. love the way you explained this to your son. Showing kindness can go a long way. Thank you for sharing this story.

  16. Your words have found their way into my heart and are changing my behavior and the way I think about the world. This post is just another tale that will hang out in my brain/heart for a while and marinate.

    That’s a pretty powerful gift, being able to reach people and change hearts and promote peace, inside and out. So glad you’re making the most of it and lots of people are reading your stories!

  17. G,
    Please post the one about not telling your kids you’re proud of them… My fave!!

  18. Beautiful storytelling & inspirational mummy moment G
    Thankyou for your words this morning. Just what I needed after an ever so frustrating awful day with my toddler man yesterday:)

  19. Moments in time, right? That beautiful smile on his face and knowing you succeeded at a life lesson….it keeps you sane and smiling:)

  20. For as long as I’ve read you’re blog (& loved it) I have never commented…until today. I loved this story so much it set my heart on fire. Thank you!

  21. Tearing up here. Thanks for the morning heart yoga. ‘Heart Yoga’ – I just made that up – stretching our hearts in good ways. Now we need yoga pants for our hearts 😉

    • P.S. After sending I realized it’s not really morning anymore – kind of felt like it still was though

  22. That is a great story – one I will share with my son – thank you! It made me think of a quote I copied off your amazing friend at her Inch of Grey blog – “You never know when your act of kindness may be the only glimpse of God that someone might have in their day.” Sounds like you and your sweet boy may have been the onion man’s only glimpse, in maybe a while.

  23. Glennon-
    This weekend at Mass, a visiting priest gave a wonderful homily about our job as Christians…to make unholy land, holy…by nurturing the (unfruitful) fig tree, so to speak…. the world can be an ugly place filled with destruction and filth and anger and darkness. Big thumbs up to you for shining a little light on that old man, but more importantly on your child.

  24. Thanks Glennon. That is just what my heart needed this morning. I have been stewing over a hard hearted comment someone I love said to me 2 days ago and trying to convince myself to give the soft hearted response even though my feelings were hurt, not the one I so badly wanted to. I feel so much better now for having held my temper and kept my cool. You’re an inspiration and such a good mama!

  25. Thank you, what a beautiful story that I hope I can remember when something like that happens to one of my children!

  26. I love this! Thanks for reposting. You are an inspiration in every way, G. I really mean that. xo, ab.

  27. Loved it the first time and still love it!!! Every time I am in the same situation, I try to remember the mean onion man. Sometime I am sweet and sometime I blow it. However, improvement is the key. As I get older, I try to focus on not being the angry old onion woman. Then I remember I am Granny Monkee and that old lady disappears. It’s sort of like those commercials where some one is acting like a real jerk and their friend brings them a candy bar and they are themselves again. When ever I am being a crabby old lady jerk I remember I’,m a Monkee and things get better. BIG SMILE!!!!

  28. oh, I so needed this. Beautiful. Thank you!

  29. Yay for you!! For practicing what you preach!!! For being the bigger person! For walking the walk and talking the talk! It’s so hard at times…especially when it means taming the Momma Bear…But you did it and it paid off! I have a feeling your son will forever remember that grumpy old man with a smile – because of his Momma. Great job!

  30. That thing you and Chase did for the onion man….that may have been the nicest anyone had been to him for a long time thanks to his demeanor. When we run into situations like that I just whisper to my daughter to act like a Girl Scout. She’s been one for years and knows what it means.

  31. That is a wonderful story, thanks for sharing! It gives me hope as a parent.

  32. I was 25 the first time someone said to me, “I wanted to kick her in the shins for the way she hurt you.” It is the first time I can ever remember being loved so deeply and protected so brilliantly. It was three years ago and I can still remember every moment of that day. I cried as I read your words, as you affirmed and protected and loved Chase so well that day in the car. Thank you for being that kind of mama.

  33. Well done Glennon. Well done.

  34. May I be so wise… I love it! What a great moment.

  35. God in drag- loved it Glennon. Will watch out for the onion men! And women.

  36. RIGHT ON, SISTER MAMA! Preach it!

  37. Keep doin what you’re doin, G. It’s felt. It’s real. It matters.

    I sent a (too long?) note of encouragement to your momastery gmail address. Not sure you’ll get a chance to read it, but the theme is unbridled encouragement, should you ever need it ;). The subject line is “Can a brother SEND love?”

    Warrior on!

  38. I love your grumpy man moment. Reminds me of a lady in a red sweater I once bumped into 😉

  39. What a great teachable moment. Chase (and your girls) are so lucky to have a mom like you who teaches them these important lessons of love. Sometimes it’s hard to find parents who do this anymore. Refreshing G, refreshing.

  40. I love this. Teaching moments are the best and they come to us when we least expect them. Recognizing those moments and using them appropriately feels great. It’s so easy to go the other way and just do what you feel like doing – like kicking shins and screaming. I’ll remember the onion man the next time someone does something that makes me feel angry.

  41. I needed this this morning. But my grumpy onion man was my five year old.

    • This just made me die laughing! Carry on warrior!

    • some days the grumpy onion man is me!! G posted a picture on FB a few days ago with the caption ” In each of us there is a little of all of us.” My prayer daily is that I am more like Jesus than the onion man. Some days I rock, some days…urgh not so good!! Thanks for your sharing.

  42. Very nice.
    In that same line you might want to checkout the book Zen Shorts.

  43. I love it! Our kids learn by watching us model behaviors. But it’s soooooo hard to act out our goodness sometimes. Congrats on not screaming curses in traffic. And congrats on the past victory of the onion man. You can’t have love unless you give it away (remember that children’s song?).

  44. More is caught than taught all day every day. Children are always watching to see how we behave. The old days of “Do as I say and not as I do” Are long gone and I for one am super glad about that…Rock on… onion man at a time. :-)

  45. Proud of you for handling this situation so well!

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