An Ode to Ryan at Register 4
TODAY’S BREW: Water. My skin is like lava.
I don’t get out much these days, and I’m good that way, but last night an old friend and colleague and a woman I admire more than I can say took me to dinner.
She said she wanted to celebrate my success.
What the hell did I do? I thought. My first book is 3 years old, my THE HARPY is behind schedule with my new publisher, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS has yet to be picked up…. I don’t do things. What the hell success is she talking about?
Well, it wasn’t what I did that makes me a success for her, it’s what I do. My fight for Sam, finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, while still editing for clients consistently, continuously writing and revising, being involved in the school and being the mother I work to be for my boys and the wife I try to be…. it’s success. Every day it’s success because it’s exactly what I want to be doing, and it isn’t easy but I will damn well do all of it.
It made me remember that everyone is a hero to someone. Accomplishments don’t make a hero, actions do. It’s not always the big things you’re a hero for, and everyone’s visions of what the big things are is different.
You mean something. You aren’t just anything–you’re important. Someone remembers you for something you did, said, stood for. Chances are it’s for something you’ve forgotten entirely.
My latest hero is Ryan at Target in Hanover.
You all know my family has been contending with our baby’s mood disorder. We’re doing wonders with it, but there’s always going to be bad moments, triggers that can’t always be avoided, new ones that come. Well, on June 12th Sam had a serious episode in the Hanover, MA Target. We weren’t there long, we didn’t need a lot, and everything was going fine, and then SNAP. He started crying, hiding, didn’t want anyone near him as we were checking out. I gave him his space, we made it to the doorway and he crumpled. Sobbing, begging me to leave him there, that he couldn’t be near people, that he couldn’t even stand up to leave because someone would see him and he shouldn’t be near people. So me and Ben and Sam sat in the corner in front of the big glass doors, for as long as it took, as loud as he needed to be, as much of a spectacle as we had to be, to make Sammy okay. A number of people stopped on their way out and said things like, “you’re doing awesome,” “can I do anything to help?” and “my child has x disorder and I know what you’re going through.”
It was the young man that cashed us out, Ryan, who had seen Sammy breaking down before we made it to the door, who told me he understood and why, who was so thoughtful and connected that particularly made me feel supported. All of the folks who stopped were amazing, one coming to tears with me, but this cashier didn’t just stop at getting me out of his line. He went to the Starbuck’s and got me a glass of ice water, and brought it to me as I sat on the floor with my kids, with Sam howling aand Ben just doing anything he could to help. I heard the lady at the Starbuck’s counter say, “That was so nice, Ryan,” and I haven’t forgotten.
Eventually we were able to comfortably get Sammy out of the store and he was fine within an hour of the episode’s start. We work hard as a family to ensure that he is okay. Nothing is more important. And Ryan at register four was a part of making it okay. He made a difference. He helped us get through another five minutes when–well, when I needed it. We all suffer with Sam, and let me tell you, I cry in public like it’s my job. It’s part of the reason why I can fight as hard as I do, why I can endure the unpredictability and be strong. I don’t hide from anyone, because I’m human, and because I want my boys to know that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to freak out, and yeah, it’s okay to cry if you need to. Whenever it happens.
But it can be very isolating, even amidst all of these wonderful people that were at Target that day, I needed that ice water hug. Ryan saw that and he helped. He wasn’t just a cashier that day, and he isn’t ever just a cashier to me. I keep that Target receipt, and I called the store to ensure he was recognized, because he was a hero to me. And he reminded me that there are heroes all over the place, suffering and saving and hurting and helping. Being there for each other, even/especially strangers, makes you mean something.
And Ryan at register 4? You mean a lot.