Oia and I made a small venture this morning to our nearest Home Depot. Our mission: paint. After two years of living in this house, our interior walls will finally get the paint they so need. I called in our order before leaving the house so I expected the trip to be quick and uneventful. When we arrived at the paint counter, there was no one available to help us but we were in no rush, just two girls out enjoying our day. As we waited for someone to appear, I picked up Oia and placed her on the only stool next to the counter where she sat feeling like royalty of the paint department.
Our wait was short as help arrived momentarily. I watched our help round the end of an isle and then proceed behind the paint counter. He greeted me and I greeted him. We had a mutual, unspoken connection once he noticed Oia by my side and within a matter of just seconds, although I knew nothing about this man, I felt great admiration for him.
He asked if he could help me. I told him about my order of paint and he gestured to the bucket on the floor. I then requested 2 more gallons of another color. We smiled at one another and then he gladly began working on our request. I remained at the counter because I wanted to wait and watch this young man work his magic but instantly found myself with glassy eyes and a lump building in my throat. Just like that. I wanted to kick myself for the sudden surge of emotion. I quickly scooped Oia up off her throne and headed a few isles away to gather myself before anyone could notice. While Oia turned every knob on every grill she could put her hands on, I stood trying to comprehend all that I had just saw.
I just saw a man struggling to walk with a crooked and palsied body, knees that rubbed in stride, but a man who still offered to help lift a 5 gallon bucket of paint into my cart.
A man in AFO's, noticeable as his pants lifted ever so slightly as he walked.
A man with eyes obviously misaligned, but who still found it easy to look up and smile at a stranger.
A man with bent, stiff, uncooperative fingers, who managed to slowly but accurately type in my paint order.
A man who softly spoke words that many must struggle to understand, slurred and slow, but a man who didn't resist conversation with me or anyone else who came to the counter.
A man who wore a shiny wedding ring; a man who seemingly found someone who vowed to love him unconditionally.
Today, I saw a man who lightened my heart. Pure and simple. And in the first glimpse of him this morning, I felt so hopeful for my own daughter and for her future. He was more than a man who mixed paint for a living. He was an inspiration.
In the beginning, we wondered if Oia would ever walk or talk. Today we have our answer. But with each ounce of progress and milestone achieved, I still drift and wonder about her future. All moms do. Thoughts of slumber parties, dances, high school, college... Will she be able to drive a car? Will she have a profession? Will she experience true love and be married? Will she grow up happy and proud of who she is? Will she find acceptance in this world? The wonders are endless but the man who happily wore his bright orange apron this morning unknowingly filled my heart with even more hope and assured me that yes, most of this, if not all of this is possible... one just has to want it.
It's funny what inspires us. If I encountered this man just three years ago I would have never left with the same impression and outlook as I did this morning and I certainly would have never had to hide myself while I wiped away hopeful, happy tears from my face. But, lucky am I today because that is exactly what I did. I went to Home Depot to pick up 7 gallons of paint and instead I came home with that and much, much more.