And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Over the weekend, as I drove into the grocery store’s parking lot, I saw a man helping his wife into one of those motorized scooters provided by the store. With our snow and ice, this was not an easy feat, and I admired him and his hard work as I found a parking space.
But then I was startled when I got out of the car. The man looked back at his wife, gave a dismissive wave, and marched off for the store. She maneuvered the scooter herself, going around snow chunks dropped by cars, sliding a bit through the slush. I followed a bit behind, just in case she needed some help.
When we went through the automatic doors, I breathed a sigh of relief. She was inside and safe. I went to get a cart, and then I heard the woman exclaim, “Oh no!”
Her scooter was jammed to a halt. There were rugs laid out for people to wipe their shoes when they came in from the snow, and the scooter just wasn’t built for rugs. When the rug passed under the front wheel, it curled up into big loops before it hit the back wheel, and the back wheel couldn’t get over. No matter which way she steered, the rug just bunched up more. I glanced through the second set of doors into the store. Surely her husband was somewhere close by.
Hurrying over to her, I patted her on the shoulder and said, “Let’s figure this out.” First, I tried to pull the rug out from the front, thinking it might unfold. It didn’t. Then I got behind her and tried to push and lift the scooter up over the blockage. I couldn’t. Then another woman came up to us.
“Let’s try this,” she said. “You hold on to her handlebars and seat, to keep the scooter from tipping, and I’ll try to pull the rug out sideways.”
And so we did. I held the scooter – and the woman – steady, and the other woman yanked the rug free. By then, five or six other people gathered in the vestibule and when the rug was released, they all cheered.
The rug-yanker and I high-fived and the woman in the scooter thanked us several times and then scooted her way into the store. As the other woman and I picked up our purses and she prepared to leave and I got ready to go in, yet another woman came up to us. “That was so nice of you,” she said. “That was really wonderful of you to help.”
The rug-yanker and I looked at each other, both of us, I believe, feeling a bit bewildered. But then we smiled our thanks and went on our way.
In the store, I saw that the woman on the scooter caught up with her husband. She was sitting quietly while he loaded the little basket with produce. I wondered if she told him what happened. I wondered if she asked where he was, why he didn’t come back to look for her.
And I wondered why anyone would think taking the time to help someone is an exceptional thing.
I thought about saying something to the husband. I really did. The woman turned and smiled at me then and mouthed, “Thank you.” There was something in that silent, careful gratitude that moved me forward, just a bit. I went to her and patted her on the shoulder. “You have a good rest of your day now,” I said. Turning to the husband, I said, “Take care of her. Please.”
I wandered through the store, picking up what I needed, and pondering. Wondering about a husband who would oh so carefully put his wife from their car into a scooter on a snowy slippery day, but then leave her behind to handle the elements and bunchy rugs herself. Wondering about being thanked for helping someone, when helping someone should really just be a normal, everyday thing. Wondering about my own caution in telling the husband to take care of his wife.
By the time I headed for home, I felt pretty settled again. I stopped to help someone. And when I couldn’t do it by myself, someone stopped to help me. We were there for her, this time. In our own small way, we helped to set her free. I hoped it was enough.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.