The first Friday of every month in the summer, my city has this outdoor community event. Music is played, food is served, and everyone gets plenty of exercise and beer.
I had completely forgotten about it, to be honest. On the way home from work, my dad asked me if we had planned on going — we carpool — and I said I didn’t know. Funny thing, not five minutes later, Jessica texted me, also asking if I felt like going.
On the way there, we stopped at the gas station. Jessica asked me to grab her a bottle of water, so Namine and I went inside. I led the way, and she followed close behind. There was a wet floor sign, which she carefully sounded out and read to me. Then she deftly maneuvered around it, following me to the bottled drinks.
I opened the fridge and my helper held the door without prompting. “Namine,” I said, “do you see any Fiji bottles?”
“Which kind is that?”
“It’s the one in the rectangular bottle.” I didn’t see any myself, but it helps to have another pair of eyes.
“I don’t see any,” she said. “I only see round bottles.”
Fair enough. I grabbed a couple Smart Waters and asked Namine to close the fridge, which she did. She followed me to the front of the store. On the way, a display containing Slim Jims longer than her arms caught her eye. “Go ahead and grab two,” I said. “We’ll share one and Mommy can have the other one.” She snatched two and parked herself next to me. She bounced in her seat, eager to buy our stuff and get going, but she waited patiently as the cashier finished ringing up the guy in line ahead of us.
When it was our turn, Namine tossed the beef sticks up on the counter. “Hi!” she said loudly to the cashier. “I’m getting one of these to share with my daddy!” The cashier smiled. “The other one is for my mommy…” She paused, thinking. “For my mommy to share with me!”
I laughed, caught off guard by the way Namine snuck in a way to get both beef sticks. The cashier laughed too, joined by a few customers in line behind us. I finished paying for our stuff and thanked the cashier. Namine thanked her too, and continued waving goodbye to everyone in the gas station as we walked out the door.
Out at the car, I handed Jessica the water and beef sticks. I was about to get Namine out of her wheelchair and into the car when one of the men inside the gas station came out. “Hi,” he said, speaking to Namine. “Do you like quarters and pennies?” He offered his hand to Namine, full of change (left over from whatever he had just purchased, I presume).
Namine looked at me, then at him. She smiled. “Yeah, I do!” she exclaimed. She held out her hands, into which the man put his change. “Thank you!” she said.
“You’re welcome,” the man said. He walked back to his car. I sat Namine into her seat and put the wheelchair into the space next to her, then got in the car myself.
“What was that about?” Jessica asked me.
“Did Namine say that she likes coins in the store?”
I shook my head. “No, I just used the card. No one said anything about coins. I just think Namine makes friends wherever she goes.”
And I do. I think her smile and her joy spread to other people, and they can’t help but love her.