The boy was about eleven years old, and frantic. He stood at the top of the mall escalator with his hands on top of his head and glasses skewed across his face.
“I can’t!” He yelled down to the bottom of the escalator to where his parents waited.
“Yes. You can,” his mom encouraged.
My own sons–one holding a new birthday present skateboard and one a small LEGO bag– stood back to give him some room.
The boy took one step back and a big breath, and launched himself forward, but stopped short of getting on the top step. He hovered there, arms spread wide, then backed away, shaking his head, his internal struggle apparent and painful.
His dad called up to him in a more forceful tone, telling him to get on the escalator.
My heart went out to both the boy and his parents. Most boys his age didn’t have a problem getting on escalators, but obviously this child struggled. I felt for him. I felt for his parents.
He took another step back and propelled himself forward with what seemed like newfound determination. But again, he stopped short, shaking his head and backing up. “I can’t,” he said.
An older man pushed impatiently by him to go down the escalator. Realizing he was in the way, the boy moved to the side.
My teenage sons moved onto the escalator. My husband and I held back.
“Do you want to go down with us?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate. “Yes.” He scurried in front of us.
“We’ll be right behind you,” I encouraged as we neared the top step. We pressed as close as was socially-distant-proper, and when the boy hesitated at the first step, he looked around and saw me and my husband. He faced forward with determination.
I chatted about how I didn’t love escalators either but how he was doing a great job. My family sandwiched that boy down the escalator, giving him a measure of protection.
At the bottom, he took off running to his parents.
It was such a small thing–to help a stranger, and yet it made me realize how much I miss interacting with strangers. It made me realize how we are all on different journeys, but how we can all help each other on whatever road we find ourselves on. Even as I realize how many opportunities I’ve missed to do this, how I so often could have done better, I’m hoping to make it a better practice of reaching out my hand, to extend love to those around me.
This is a theme that runs through The Orchard House. While the story focuses on women helping women, the crux of it is the same–we need one another. We need to cheer one another on. We need community. It’s something I’ve missed this last year, something I’ve even fooled myself into thinking I didn’t always need, but I was wrong.
We were made for one another–to live, grow, challenge, and change each other. To help one another live better stories.
Today, I’m praying someone will help you along in your journey, and that you will be a help to them. I’m praying that we will glimpse our purpose and God’s goodness and grace in the eyes of another. I’m praying you and I will walk this road with courage and hope and love, seeking out the best story–and Author–of all.