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When a Lady at the Grocery Store Gave Us Just What We Needed During My Son's Meltdown

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I believe when God created this world, he sent in a few angels who would touch people’s lives with their kindness. They would come into our lives and restore our lost faith, our strength, our hope, and our happiness. When others stare or ignore, these angels would reach out and hold our hand; when others stand and judge, they gently whisper, “I understand.” I am lucky to have met one of those kind souls.

Those with a child on the autism spectrum know how quickly a seemingly innocuous event — a walk in the park, a trip to the store, a day at a fair, a birthday party – can escalate into an incident. What we call meltdowns are just an external manifestation of a person’s inability to communicate, the sensory overload playing havoc on his or her mind, and tons of other factors we might not even know.

It was one of those days for my son and one of those days for me when you just feel so defeated you don’t even want to try. We had moved to a new neighborhood and after a lot of searching found a speech therapist. On the first visit, she politely asked us to find another therapist because Vedant was “a handful” for her. His special needs school he was attending had been asking me to find him a new school because he was “too low-functioning” for them. Vedant was having a rough phase. I knew something was bothering him, but I was unable to do anything except watch helplessly. His distress often ended up in him, out of all the pent up frustration, grabbing my hair.

It was one of those difficult times when nothing seemed to go right. However, I had a household to run and so had to go grocery shopping. While I was waiting for my turn at the register, Vedant suddenly started crying and grabbed my hair. He has a death grip when he wants (I must be feeding him something right!), and as he pulled in all directions, I withered in pain, unable to peel his hands off me.

I could feel all eyes on us, except one — the lady in front of me at the register.

She turned around, looked at me with the gentlest of eyes and asked if I wanted her to help me get stuff off my cart for checkout. I nodded my head, still trying to calm him. When Vedant felt better and freed me of his grip, I went ahead to pay, but the cashier said the lady who had emptied my cart had already paid for me. It was then I noticed that she was waiting for me with my cart while she had another store associate push her own. I went to thank her and pay her back, but she adamantly refused. By now, Vedant had settled down too, and my head with a disheveled mop of hair could think straight again. She asked if she could walk with me to my car. I gladly agreed. She said, “My son is on the autism spectrum too. I understand.” I forced a smile of acknowledgment and walked along.

We walked to my car in silence. She said nothing, but I could feel the warmth that radiated from her. It touched my heart. She did not try to do anything over-the-top to make me feel obligated — talk too much, sympathize too much, preach or try to be condescending about the whole situation. She was there by my side, like a strong support. I couldn’t have asked for anything more at that moment. I just wanted someone to shield me from everyone else, and she appeared.

There was healing in that silence. We reached my car, and she nicely stacked everything in my trunk while I buckled up my son in his seat. I went back again to thank her. She gave me a hug — the warmest and the most honest hug I have ever had — and said, “God loves you.” Then she quietly walked away.

I did not ask for her name or her number or notice where her car was parked. I was too overwhelmed. I watched her walk off, and then I went into my car and cried. I have no idea what those tears were for. Were they tears of exhaustion, of defeat, of fear of failure, of embarrassment, or were they tears of joy, of gratitude and of thankfulness? I’m not sure. All I know was that crying felt good.

Since that day there have been several occasions that Vedant has had a rough moment in a mall or a park or another grocery store. But I no longer feel as overwhelmed as I did that day. Not embarrassed either. I don’t know how that incident affected me, but it changed me to believe I have a kind soul watching over us, and it will come to our rescue when I really need it.

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Originally published: October 13, 2016
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