The man who came into the running store held the door open with his foot while he pushed a kid-cool wheelchair inside. He was upbeat and friendly as he maneuvered the chair to the shoe wall. I asked his name.
"Jeff," he said.
"I'm Leslie. Who's your friend here?" I asked, kneeling to look at her eye-level.
"That's Katie, my daughter," he said. "She's 13."
"Nice to meet you," I said.
Katie's brown hair was held back from her forehead with a white headband. Her tennis shoes were pink and white, her bare legs smooth and slender. She didn't answer when her dad or I spoke to her, or seem to understand what we said. But she tilted her face toward her father, and seemed comfortable and happy.
At one point, I asked if she'd like to hold the teddy bear we keep, along with other toys, in a corner for antsy children. "What do you think, Katie?" he asked, then answered me, "Thank you, but I think she's fine."
He talked to her some as he tried on the shoes. "Katie, I'm going to walk around the store for a minute," he said. Or "How do you like these, Katie?"
He bought the shoes and put the box on Katie's lap. When they reached the door, Andrew, one of my colleagues, dashed out from around the counter to open it for him. He came back to the desk where a few of us were standing.
"Do you know what's wrong with her?" he asked.
No, I told him, only that she didn't seem to be able to do anything for herself.
Andrew fiddled with one of the rubber bracelets on his arm. "My cousin's son is disabled," he said, "and his parents have started a foundation for him that raises money to buy playground equipment for disabled children. That's what this bracelet is.
"Do you think that man would mind if I gave it to him, and told him about the foundation?"
We looked out the window. Jeff had slid open the side door to his van and was lifting Katie's wheelchair inside.
"Not at all," I said. "Go! Hurry!"
Andrew quickly scribbled down the foundation's website, grabbed the piece of paper and ran outside. He returned a minute or so later.
"What did he say?" I asked.
"He said thank you very much," Andrew said.
Just another reminder that 1. I work with some really wonderful people. And 2. We really are all in this together.
Here's the website, by the way: http://www.patrickspalsfoundation.com/
An Older Dad, Down for the Count
1 day ago