What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Carrie Braun.

It was an unusually warm day, an early departure from the cool air of spring to the dogged heat of summer. I had my three young kids in tow as we parked more than a half mile from the soccer field.
Stroller, blanket, diaper bag, picnic lunch, and sticky sun screened hands all hanging on me, we made our way down to the field. Seeing the only open area of shade behind the far goal, we staked out a little spot near the rest of the parents trying to stay cool in this 90+ degree weather.
The soccer game was more than halfway over. We’d done our best to get there earlier, but Siri wasn’t cooperating. As I laid out our lunch, the parents around us began commenting on the game between bursts of yelling very helpful things at the thirteen year old girls on the field like “watch your man” and “KICK THE BALL!”
One dad, noticeably frustrated, harrumphed and said to the parents around him, “This ref is terrible. We had him yesterday. He’s a complete…”
That’s when I had to speak up. Because we weren’t there to watch a player on the field, we were there to see my husband. The aforementioned ref. The one about to be shamed in front of his children, who are too small to put in their own Capri Sun straws, but not too small to understand someone talking negatively about their dad.
“Please stop,” I said, surprising myself at the strength in my voice. “We are the ref’s family. These are his children. Please stop.”
What I want you to know is that sports officials are people, with lives and families and stories of their own. I know it seems like a small thing. But its part of a bigger picture of treating one another with kindness- even sports officials. It struck me that day that the man making the negative comments was taking out his frustration on the person easiest to blame. I’ve done that same thing in different variations many, many times. And rarely have I stopped to consider the person on the other end of the frustration- their life, their circumstances. I would have acted differently if I knew members of their family were standing close by, meaning that I should never have acted that way at all.
Why were we there anyway, watching my husband referee a soccer game in the heat? It was Father’s Day. He had a 45 minute break between the 8th and 9th game he was refing that weekend. I wanted to explain all that, and more. That he’s an amazing stay-at-home dad, that refing club soccer is how he contributes financially to our family, and that he left before the kids were up that morning to wish him a happy father’s day, so we packed a picnic to enjoy lunch with him at the field so he didn’t have to hurry between games to grab something to eat. I wanted to say that while he may not be a perfect ref, he was out there working hard for his family and doing his best.
The man didn’t say another word for the rest of the game, and got up at the last whistle and sheepishly walked away without a glance or an apology. That’s fine. He was embarrassed. I hope he remembers us next time an unkind word about someone he knows nothing about gets ready to cross his lips, and he decides to keep it to himself.
What I want you to know is this has changed the way I view people around me- sports officials, retail workers, waiters and waitresses. I go out of my way to be kind, and it’s been shocking to see how appreciative people have been. It makes me sad that a little extra kindness is such a rarity.
Lastly, I want you to know that next time, we’ll find a nice quiet patch out of earshot of the parents to sit and watch.