Battle at the North Bend Safeway and The Kindness of Strangers

UPDATE | NOVEMBER 22, 2019

We found the kind stranger! His name is Rich and he recently moved back to the valley to take care of his aging parents. His girlfriend, who lives in Goldbar, saw the article and knew it was him. She asked him and he said yes. Then he found me (the author) and I put he and Sheryl together. They talked, cried and talked about how special that night at the grocery store was. Sheryl describes Rich as an “angel.”

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ORIGINAL STORY

A trip to the grocery store for Sheryl can be a lesson in patience and one fraught with worry and trepidation. Sheryl, a long time Snoqualmie Valley resident, has a 13-year-old son with ASD. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.

According to Sheryl, in public Elijah gets quite anxious and will move into a battle zone world. It is something that his parents, school and therapists have worked on for years to break him of for fear that others will not realize he means no harm. Sheryl says her son “can’t even hurt a bug without getting upset.” Elijah makes sounds like helicopters, explosions, bombs and machine guns during this time. He also throws imaginary grenades and pretends to be shooting things with his hands. And, of course, does things any good Star Wars or Star Trek fan would recognize.

His mom says his beat box sounds of battle are incredibly authentic. Elijah’s social IQ understanding is that of a 5 or 6-year-old, but his historical understanding of US History and World War l and ll, SW and ST are savant like. Anytime he gets anxious, he’ll immediately fall into this behavior and into an alternate world.

One recent night they were in Safeway and says Sheryl, “He was rolling all over the store in his war world.” His parents continue to take him places because they do not want him to hole up and become reclusive, as is his typical nature. They feel judgement from just about every person they see because he appears so out of control.

That night at Safeway, though, Sheryl said was quite different.

On that night a big burly man with many tattoos, who looked like he worked a hard labor job, started [simulating] shooting her son back. Sheryl said her son normally doesn’t engage with people. However, this man got on his level and for a 1/2 hour was hiding all over the store playing with her son. Even after checking out and leaving the store before they did, he hid on the ground like a sniper and got Elijah as he exited the store! As he fell to the ground, a young man from the community appeared, dragged him to safety and started to play, too. All these grown men were playing War to Elijah’s delight. Even after they got in their own trucks and cars, they again drove past and ‘shot’ them again.

Says Sheryl incredulously, “My son was smiling – ACTUALLY SMILING after a trip to the store. Then he said Mom why don’t you ever get on the ground like that?” Mom remarked, “Guess I need to step up my game! – love living in North Bend!”

This story was taken from a Facebook post Elijah’s mother made the next night to describe the wonderful experience she and her son had on that grocery store trip. I know in the current social climate people have concerns about guns, even in play. His parents worry too. Elijah is enrolled in a wonderful school, the Children’s Institute for Learning Differences, where he gets an education in a way that works for his special needs. On that night, he got to be an innocent kid playing a game with two men who helped protect that innocence.

If you happen to know the man (or are the man) who first started the game in the grocery store, please leave a comment. We’d all like to say thank you for helping to make Elijah’s day.

Comments

  1. Ethel Renner says

    That had to be totally awesome for all of you!

  2. Kudos!! Leadership is about taking the first step. Leaders are those who others willingly follow. Great job!

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