Would You Clean Up Vomit for a Stranger?

I sat in church on Sunday watching the minutes on the clock slowly tick away. The clock wasn’t moving fast enough. Having three kids, any of whom could erupt into a tirade at any moment in a setting like church, that is supposed to have some level of reverence, is anything but relaxing for me and Jackie. I couldn’t focus on the message. How could I? There were way too many things that could go wrong at any second.

A dad on the other side of the aisle stood up to take his kid to the bathroom. He had an orange Skittle stuck to his crotch. Maybe it was an M&M? I’m not sure. I didn’t ask. The timing didn’t seem quite right.

The more I tried to focus on what I’m sure was a great message, the more my mind started to wander. I started to think about 2 months earlier when we were sitting on that very same bench as a family. It was Christmas Day. Christmas Day is the one church day of the year where absolutely everything has to go perfectly, right? It’s like an unwritten rule or something.

As we sat there listening to the good word, I got the sense that Collin wasn’t feeling too hot. One of the exciting things about having a child that can’t talk, is that we frequently get to play a rousing game of “Guess That Diagnosis.”

On this particular day I lost that game in a bad way.

I should have seen the signs. He kept sprawling out on the bench. He’d take my hand and put it on his stomach. His complexion wasn’t quite right. But in my defense, it wasn’t terrible either. Jackie had just taken Brady to the bathroom and as they sat back down, I mentioned that I thought Collin was acting like he might throw up.

“Hurry and take him to the bathroom!” she said.

In hindsight that seemed like a really smart thing to do. Jackie usually has all the answers.

I grabbed him by the hand and just as we stood up he made the first gagging sound.

“There’s no way this is happening,” I thought. “Not on Christmas. This kind of stuff only happens on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day or the Super Bowl. Or National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Don’t these people know the rules?”

We started walking quickly toward the back of the chapel but it was too late. Just as we turned toward the hall, it happened.

Pretty much everything he had eaten since his third birthday was right there on the floor of the church. On Christmas.

I was mortified.

I mean, what’s the next step? The probability that he tosses his cookies again are high. But, there’s puke… ON THE FLOOR OF THE CHURCH. ON CHRISTMAS!

Do I stay and clean it up or do I keep rushing him to the bathroom and ignore the giant pool of grossness that’s rapidly working its way into the fibers of the carpet?

In the moment, as far as I was concerned, one toddler with a tummyache had single-handedly ruined Christmas Day for everybody. This would go down as “The Great Grocery Tossing Incident of 2012.”

It would be our family’s Watergate.

What happened next blew me away.

People with whom I had rarely interacted stood up out of their seats to help. Some helped me take Collin to the bathroom so we could clean him up. Others ran to the custodial closet for cleaning supplies. By the time I had cleaned up his clothes and regained a semblance of my composure, everything had been cleaned up. There wasn’t even a hiccup in the meeting. In fact, because of the way it was handled, I’ll bet 90% of the people there didn’t even know something had gone awry. In a matter of moments everyone was back in their seats enjoying the message like nothing had happened.

No one batted an eye.

No one waited for acknowledgement.

It was charity in its purest form.

I couldn’t help but ask myself if I would have done the same. I’d like to think that I would have, but it was definitely a gut check (another truly awful pun. I’m so so sorry!).

Would I clean up vomit for a stranger without thinking twice?

Yesterday I discovered that I would help a stranger in need if the situation presented itself. I wasn’t fully tested with a pukestravaganza, but I feel like I responded in a way my mom would have been proud of given the circumstances.

Check out tomorrow’s post about the chance I had to share a little kindness with a stranger and how it ended in a seriously bizarre way.

When was the last time you were on the receiving end of a good deed? How did it impact you?

Protip: When searching for images for this post I used the phrase “sick kid.” Never ever do that! I’ve never had the internet give me the sads so quickly in all my life. And I’ve see the Friday video.


  1. Jackie Sullivan says

    Jackie usually has all the answers. Good call. :)

    We have an awesome church family. They love is and look out for us. :)

  2. says

    I was wondering about that pic! ;-)

    I think people want to be helpful deep down & the fact that you were in church on a special day may have helped this situation.. out in public, I am sure people would help but most likely not the response you got in church.

    It reminds me of those insurance company commercials when 1 person helps another & it keeps on giving. I love those commercials…

  3. Racquel says

    I remember that day. I was bringing mason back from the bathroom when I saw a few people rushing to the custodial closet and cleaning things up. Then I saw jackie and she told me what happened. I was in awe as well at how fast things were cleaned up and how everyone was willing to help. And you are right, hardly anyone even knew what had happened. Josh and I were sitting on the bench right in front of you and when I asked josh about it he had no idea. :) we do have a great ward family!


  1. [...] In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I had the opportunity to help a stranger in need. I figured the best way to tell you how things went down was through a video. I’ll tell you this: it was so weird. I’ve decided that I’m a magnet for the unexpected. Strangeness flocks to me. Even though the story doesn’t end in a car chase, the way it ends makes it so much funnier to me. Whether or not it’s funny to you will be decided after viewing. Oh, and hopefully there’s a good reminder in there somewhere too… [...]

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