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When I Found Kindness At Walmart as a Person With Tourette Syndrome

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I have Tourette syndrome, and I’ve seen the ugly side of a lot of people because of it. However, I’ve also seen immeasurable amounts of kindness from even more people. This is the story of strangers in Walmart on one of my worst days.

I had gone to the store to get orange soda for my grandfather, as he drank an almost obscene amount of it. My tics were particularly bad at the time, and the stress of going into stores only made that worse. I had recently developed a tic where my head throws itself back like it’s trying to detach from my body. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame it if it did want to. This tic often rendered me unable to walk and falling on my butt every few minutes.

In the soda aisle of Walmart, this tic decided it was time. I tried to hold onto the cart, but ended up stuck on the floor, head pushing back violently. A man came up behind me and helped me to my feet. He didn’t speak English, but he called over someone who did.

People often ignore Tourette tics, much like a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. Also like a small child, my body likes to throw a tantrum. This man’s simple acknowledgement that I needed help but couldn’t ask for it meant the world to me.

The woman he called over held me tightly against her and asked if I was all right. I told her I was. I explained why I was there and that my mother was in the car waiting for me. She insisted I go to the car, but I said I just needed one thing: orange soda. She leaned me up against her, holding me up between herself and the cart, helped me grab the two 12-packs of soda and took me through the line.

She didn’t stop there. She helped me to my mom’s car. I was incredibly flustered and struggled to remember where she parked. She helped me to the car when we did find it and even stood outside the car to explain to my mom what happened.

These strangers showed me such immense kindness in one of my hardest times, physically and emotionally. I wish I could go back and thank them, but I didn’t get their names. So I want to tell you that people can and will surprise you. I feel it’s easy to get stuck in a pessimistic view of people, but we can’t let ourselves be jaded. I felt so blessed to have strangers around me who cared enough to help me, and I hope one day I can help someone the way they helped me.

Getty image by Vera Petrunia.

Originally published: April 22, 2019
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