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When a Stranger in a Hospital Restroom Offered to Help

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I have a mantra I often use with customers and staff at work, “I know you can handle it, but, why have to if someone can help?” The problem is that I have difficulty applying this to my own life.

I had driven four hours through the mountains with a 2-year-old, in the middle of a pandemic. It is never easy to navigate a toddler in a public restroom. It is extra challenging with a very curious, yet hypotonic toddler, in the middle of a pandemic. In addition, naps are sacred, and I would rather hold my pee until I explode than wake a toddler up in the middle of a four-hour car trip, in the mountains, when there is unlikely to be enough cell reception to play Baby Shark on repeat!

I arrived at the hospital a few minutes early for the appointment, but, I was stressed from the car ride, distracted by having to pee, and concerned we would get more bad news at the appointment. In fact, I was flustered enough that day, I accidentally told the check-in team the wrong appointment and they started to turn me away!

Finally, I pushed my son’s wheelchair into the elevator, holding my breath to avoid sucking in dust from the construction — I was taking no chances of catching a cough in the final seconds before the next COVID-19 questionnaire!

Once checked in, I rushed to the restroom, hoping I would find it empty. My son’s wheelchair does not fit completely into the disability stall, so I typically have to use that restroom with the door wide open so I can watch him.

Just before I entered the stall, the restroom door flew open. I’m thankful I was wearing a mask because I guarantee my face was not pleasant as I quickly pondered, “Do I wait until she’s finished? Act like I am done and just wash my hands and hold it? Pee with the stall door open even though there’s someone else in here?”

Before I had time to make a decision, the stranger in the restroom said, “How can I help you?”

I was caught off guard and my mind raced: It would be easy to say no. I do need help. But, what kind of help do I actually need? Maybe I should just say no. They must have sensed my hesitation, yet known I would appreciate the help.

They said, “May I keep your son company while you use the bathroom?”

At that point, I had to pee so bad it hurt, and I figured they would not have asked twice unless they meant it, so I accepted.

From inside the stall, I heard them converse with my son in a way that showed they embraced every part of him. They asked about his dinosaur, complimented his wheelchair color, and explained how the paper towel dispenser worked. It warmed my heart not only that they had offered to help, but, that they delved in and embraced every part of my son. Most people are kind, but, very often, people, especially adults, are afraid to ask questions or make comments that include anything related to his disability — but, that is part of who he is. Not something that needs to be hidden or ignored.

On the four-hour trek home, I had ample time to reflect. I realized that it is OK to accept help. I can handle quite a lot on my own, but why should I, if I don’t have to? It is OK to accept help. People want to help. It is not my job to rob people of the opportunity to be a blessing in my life.

So thank you to the stranger in the restroom. They taught me that it is OK to accept help and that if people are offering, there’s a good chance they truly want to help.

Getty image by dmphoto

Originally published: November 1, 2022
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