Stranger Things

Emma Louise Cheetham by Emma Louise Cheetham Additional Needs

Emma Louise Cheetham

Emma Louise Cheetham

I live in Stockport, UK. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. After years of therapy and getting back on my fee...

There’s few things more frustrating when you’re trying to walk through the town centre or do some shopping than a complete stranger stopping you to ask for you to sign up to something to donate money every month.

Of course I understand it’s their job and somebody has to do it but during a two hour shopping trip I can be stopped by five different ‘chuggers’ representing five different companies.

I have donated to charities previously when I worked a full time job in health insurance.

Granted it wasn’t £100s but I did my bit for those who resonated with me or whose message I felt passionate about.

My circumstances mean that I’m currently unable to work, partly due to the fact I am now a full time Mummy to my beautiful yet medically complex little baby boy.

This means I have to count the pennies and I can’t afford to donate. So when somebody steps in front of me to ask me for cash I smile and say “not today, sorry”.

A few weeks ago I was walking through the town centre with Jaxon in his pram.

I heard a voice “excuse me, miss”. Here we go again, I thought to myself.

I looked up and smiled whilst continuing to walk on, I was tired after another sleepless night and I just wanted to do what I needed to get done. “Wait, wait you’re the first person that’s even smiled at me today” the voice said.

I didn’t know if this was part of his sales patter but something told me to stop.

“I work for the British Heart Foundation” he told me. I wanted to jump in and explain that he was wasting his time, I’m not in any position to donate and then we could both get on.

“Your baby is beautiful, does he cry a lot?” He asked me.

I thought that’s an odd question to ask somebody, especially a stranger.

Usually it’s “do they sleep well?” Or “are they good?” I didn’t really know how to answer. I could’ve explained that he’s not a big crier or I could tell the story of my little warrior, proudly to a complete stranger.

I chose the latter.

“He doesn’t cry much, he’s quite poorly” I started to explain.

I saw both the sadness and curiosity in the gentleman’s eyes as he looked down at my innocent little baby who knew life no differently than as it is now. “He was resuscitated at birth, he has brain damage. He has Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, a visual impairment and he’s tube fed.” I told him.

Information overload to this complete stranger of course but I watched and waited for him to say something.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say” he replied.

In my head I was thinking please don’t carry on with your pitch and ask me for money after I’ve just dumped a brief medical history of my child onto you.

“How do you do it?” He asked me.

I told him I just get on with it with the help and support from my amazing friends and family.

I told him how when it’s your child you just do. No matter what has happened or how you’re feeling, when your child needs you, you just do it.

There isn’t a choice or a second option. You do what you need to do for your child.

“You’re incredible” he said in awe. I just gave a weak smile and told him that I’m not.

I told him that I’m just a first time Mummy doing the best for my little boy, how I don’t always get it right but I make every decision for him with his best interests at heart.

Every decision comes from a place of love, a mothers love.

He took a genuine interest in Jaxon. He wanted to know what life looks like day to day and how he differs to his typical peers.

The conversation lasted only around 15 minutes but it felt like we’d talked for hours. I waited for him to jump in and try to encourage me to donate money.

He never did.

“Can I give you a hug before you leave?” he asked me. I could’ve cried as this genuine man, so full of empathy and kindness had taken time out of his day to hear our story held me and told me how his heart was full of love for the both of us.

He thanked me for stopping to talk to him. He told me I’d made his day.

The truth is I should’ve thanked him because not only did he prove me wrong when I thought the whole time he was asking me questions to soften me up to boost his commission, but he listened, he heard me and he allowed me to offload a portion of the sadness and the pride for my child that I carry on my shoulders on a day to day basis.

Maybe he went home, talked about the baby he saw at work that day who has fought battles far greater than anybody who hasn’t lived this life could comprehend.

Maybe he remembered us for the next few days as he went about his life. Maybe he thought about us as he saw somebody pushing a pram down the street. Who knows?

Me though, I said nothing about my encounter with this lovely man until now. But I haven’t forgotten the kind stranger in the town centre who, just for a moment, stopped and listened.

I doubt if I ever will.

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