When your child with special needs is little and cute, people can be sympathetic. But when he’s bigger and still getting sick over and over, well, you try not to bother people. You just smile and pretend everything’s fine. Inside, I often felt alone.
My younger son is diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism. He also had a lot of digestive problems. I made sure he went to the toilet every two hours. Most days we were lucky. One day, our luck ran out. My nonverbal teenage son and I were standing in a long check-out line at Walmart when he needed to use the bathroom immediately. He was 14 at the time.
I parked my cart to one side and asked a cashier to watch it for me. I walked my son to the women’s restroom, about 10 feet away. He was cramping and in pain. I had to get my son on the bathroom as quickly as I could. Fortunately, the handicapped stall was available. Women and girls wrinkled up their noses and moved away from us. Soon the restroom was empty.
Suddenly, I realized my diaper bag was in the car, about a quarter-mile away. I made frequent trips back and forth to the sinks, wetting paper towels, adding a dash of soap. Most of his clothes were ruined. He couldn’t wear them. I couldn’t leave him alone while I went out to the car, and I didn’t have anyone to watch my son. What could I do, wander around Walmart asking strangers to help? I couldn’t leave my son alone in the restroom, even for a minute. Staff might call in Child Protective Services, a real concern for any single parent of a child with special needs. I felt so helpless. We were stuck in the restroom.
I couldn’t help it; I started crying. “OK, God, I really need a friend right now. Please send me someone who cares.” I managed to pull myself together and soothe my son. He needed me to smile and tell him we’d be just fine. By now, I knew how easily he picked up on my emotions. Mommy always made things better, but just then, Mommy didn’t have a clue.
One minute later, there was a knock on the stall door. A kind, middle-aged woman smiled at me. “Honey, you look like you need a friend. What can I do?”
I breathed a sigh of relief, thanking God for such a quick answer to my prayer. I hadn’t prayed for help; I’d prayed for a friend, and there she was. I found myself smiling back at her.
“You’re an angel,” I told her. The car was too far away, I thought. I handed this woman $20 and asked her if she would pick up a pair of pajama bottoms for my son. She was back, ten minutes later, with the pajamas and a pair of socks. I hadn’t thought to ask for socks.
I thanked her over and over. She didn’t have to stop and help. Everyone else just left, seeing a mom in trouble, but this woman saw someone who needed her. There aren’t enough words for such kindness. I helped my son get dressed in his nice, clean clothes. Soon, we were able to complete our purchases and go home, just like everyone else.
I was mentally thanking God all the way home. His message was clear: “You’re not alone.”
Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!