As I waited for my load assignment coming off home time, I wandered into the Walmart. And, as is my habit, I made my way to the book section. I always want to see if my friends’ books are there. I have a bad habit of browsing sideways and am notorious for getting so caught up with the titles, I’m constantly bumping into people. If that was illegal, I’d have gone to prison a long time ago. Such was the case today.
As I raised up to apologize for colliding with another shopper, my eyes connected with Eleanor. She is a lovely teenager with Downs Syndrome. Before I could utter words of apology, she blurted out, “I’m Eleanor, but not Roosevelt.”
“Well, Miss Eleanor, I’m so sorry I bumped into you. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“No you weren’t. Know how I could tell? Because you were looking down and I’m way up here.”
I was instantly captivated by the sparkle in her eye when she told how she could easily see I was going to hit her. She was just as emphatic when she repeatedly told me she was NOT Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Eleanor, do you know who Eleanor Roosevelt was?”
“She was a very important and smart woman. That’s why my mama named me Eleanor. That’s how I knew you were going to run into me.”
“That’s RIGHT! You’re mama sure gave you a great name.”
Eleanor’s life is simple. She is happy, something conspicuously missing in today’s America. She takes things in stride, like a stranger bumping into her in the book isle at Walmart. She’s never met a stranger and she finds the good in everyone.
“You make my heart happy and warm, like hot Krispy-Kreme donuts,” she said of me.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I just had to ask.
“I want to be a helper.”
“Yes, I want to help people with whatever they need me to help them with. My heart jumps up and down in my chest when I do that.” She placed her hand over her heart as if she were going to say the Pledge of Allegiance. “My heart is right here. Did you know that?”
“Well I do now, and I bet it’s really big.”
“You’re funny. What’s your name?”
“Yes, Reba, but not McEntire.”
“Like Eleanor, but not Roosevelt.! We’re just alike!”
Eleanor erupted into uncontrollable laughter that flooded my heart. Instantly, we were holding our sides in the middle of Walmart. For whatever reason, because our first names are also names of famous people, she and I made a connection. At that instant we were of kindred spirit. After several minutes we said out goodbyes. I watched as Eleanor walked off recounting the entire scene to her all-knowing mom.
It was just a brief moment in time that played a song on the strings of my heart. Eleanor, but not Roosevelt, enriched me today. Thrilled my heart. Bathed my soul in warmth and sincerity that could only have come from her. As I walked back to my truck, I realized her life’s goal will indeed be fulfilled if she just stands in the presence of others. She will surely help anyone she is around just by being herself.
Thank you Eleanor, but not Roosevelt… From your new friend, Reba, but not McEntire.