I nearly died at Walmart yesterday.

The “bad cold” I’ve been fighting for the past couple of weeks turned into a “bad cough” over the weekend, and since then it’s been a struggle to get much of anything done without causing a coughing fit.

I was feeling better yesterday so I decided to attempt grocery shopping after dropping Topher off at school.

It started out fine – we were actually almost done, with three more rows to go, when the coughing started.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

I was coughing and coughing and coughing, bent over the shopping cart, then kneeling on the ground, gasping for air.

And nobody seemed to notice.

My concerned two-year-old was patting my hand, saying “You okay, Mommy?  You okay? You need cough drop, Mommy?”

I could see people out of the corner of my eye, other shoppers, reaching around me for their Kraft Dinner and their stewed tomatoes – while I struggled to breathe.

It’s not like it wasn’t obvious, either.  I mean, coughing?  Doubled over on the ground?  Gasping for air?  I even gave up trying to be polite and coughing into my elbow in favour of clutching my throat so people would know I couldn’t breathe.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (but was actually only a couple of minutes) one Walmart employee (out of three who were stocking in the row I was in) abandoned his post to see if I was okay.  He offered to get me some water, and while he was gone I was finally able to stop coughing long enough to get a couple of deep breaths of air into my lungs – and it was over.  I walked slowly, and sipped my water carefully, willing my lungs to behave at least until we got home.

I have no idea how many people heard me coughing and chose to walk by that row.  I don’t know how many people pushed their carts past mine while I was struggling to breathe, looking away, reaching for pantry staples instead of reaching out to help.

And it’s got me thinking:

How many times do we do that?

How many times do we walk past someone obviously in need – and look the other way?

And why?

Because we’re too busy?

… Or because we’re afraid?

And if we are afraid, what are we so afraid of?

Open my eyes, Lord.  Help me to see people in need.  Inconvenience me.  Interrupt me, if that’s what it takes.  People are more important than anything else in this world – and I want to live like I believe it.


  1. says

    Wow, how scary that must’ve been for you and Ellie. It always astonishes me when I hear about someone in distress but no one ever reaches out to help. It’s common in some countries to not help because they’re worries about lawsuits. Such a sad world we live in.
    I’m glad you’re okay and someone did finally notice before it got worse. Hope you feel better soon!

  2. says

    Oh man, I am so sorry that happened to you… I can’t believe nobody asked if you were ok (or at least got an employee to check on you if they didn’t want to “deal with it” themselves).

    As sad as it is, I think many people either don’t know what to do (as silly as it sounds) or are just too busy with themselves to even consider helping a stranger. I don’t know.

    I definitely want to try and walk around with my eyes (wider) open!

  3. says

    That’s terrible. It could easily happen to me because I often get some kind of bronchitis when I get a simple cold. The few times I’ve had monster cough attacks out in the public, people have showed concern. But that was in Italy, where people at least 20 years ago were polite and well educated. Even a 17-year-old was concerned enough to make me milk with honey. Teenagers over here would never do that.
    Maybe it is that people don’t know what to do to help and that feels awkward to them. But just a hand on the shoulder would help! To know someone sees you’re in trouble…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>