I Needed Help as I Sat Outside of Macy’s. Only One Man Stopped.

I was born a shopper’s daughter. From my early childhood until I grew well into adulthood, Mom took me shopping on Saturdays. The question of “Which mall are we going to tomorrow?” would usually have an answer after we ate dinner Friday night.

My shopping excursions continued when Mom no longer had the physical abilities to take me to the mall. Bargain-hunting required additional thinking about factors other than which store to shop. Saturdays, for example, became off-limits because of my difficulties in navigating crowds and trying to remain on my feet without people knocking me down. Without the stampede of Saturday shoppers, retail therapy became easier during less crowded school and work days.

A few weeks following the first Christmas after my mom’s death, however, I felt the rumblings of gift cards waiting to be spent. I decided to listen to the call of the mall on the first sunny Saturday of the new year.  On such a mild winter day, people would choose to engage in outdoor activities, I reasoned. The congestion of shoppers should not clog the space I needed to feel comfortable to accomplish my mission.

While the cab driver steered through one of the entrances to Macy’s, I glimpsed at the parking lot full of cars. My anxiety kicked in and I began to doubt if I could handle this Saturday outing. After pushing the button to the accessible door and entering the store, I saw a teenager in a reclining wheelchair being wheeled by her mother. I felt a mix of emotions as I remembered Mom pushing me, a young teen with cerebral palsy, in my oversized stroller. Smiling at both of them, I gained new perspective at my increased ability to walk longer distances and shop independently.

After walking around the petite department and avoiding the main aisles as I ventured into the mall, I stopped for an iced coffee and watched the maze wander in and out of shops.  With renewed energy from my half-hour, caffeinated pick-me-up, I negotiated my way through the crowd and hit some of the smaller stores. The growing crowd told me I should end my shopping adventure and remake my path through Macy’s.

Although I had booked a cab home, I worried that the driver would not find me at the correct entrance. Sitting on a ledge with mannequins to my side, I pulled out my cell phone and called the cab company. I knew I looked awkward as I tried to balance my phone on my knees and speak as clearly as possible. The glaring eyes of passersby made me more aware of my difficulties.

crowd of people shopping outside

I then felt someone sit down next to me. As I looked up, a middle-aged man asked, “Do you need help?”

I explained what I was trying to do, and he asked to use my phone.

“Yes, this woman is inside the Macy’s entrance facing the freeway.  She has a… speech impairment,” he explained. He asked my name and relayed information between me and the dispatcher.

“She said the cab is on the way and will be here in about 10 minutes,” he told me after returning my smartphone.

“Thank you. I think I can handle it from here. I don’t want to hold you up any longer.”

“You’re not holding me up. I’m following my wife around the store like a puppy dog. I was going to put these bags in the car. I see you’ve done some shopping, too,” he said, pointing to the bags on my arm.

“I did, but I should not have come on a Saturday. Usually, I shop during the week. I stayed home most of this rotten week, though, and needed an escape.”

“You need to get out whenever you can. I don’t mind waiting with you until the cab comes.”

The stranger sat with me for a few minutes longer. He then walked outside and stood with me as I looked for a bright yellow taxi. When I spotted it, the man took my bags and followed me to the vehicle. Opening the door for me, he made sure I entered the cab safely before handing me my packages.

“Are you going with her?” the driver asked.

“No. She knows where she’s going. Have a good afternoon, Stephanie.”

“Thanks. You, too. And thank you for all of help.”

As the cab pulled away, I looked back and waved to that kind stranger who made my day much easier.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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