While we are always reinvigorated by personal contact with our customers, tradeshow friends and new acquaintances, every once in a while, there is a situation that makes everything special. We experienced one of these uplifting moments at the Chicago Abilities Expo, thanks to Auti Angel.
For those of you who may not know her, Auti was one of the stars of Sundance Channel’s reality series “Push Girls” (far left in photo below). She often attends Abilities Expos to provide wheelchair dance workshops. We are blessed that she considers Bill and me her good friends and vice versa.
In Chicago, we had already made plans to have dinner with Auti on Saturday evening. So, we did not expect to see her at our booth until the end of that day, if at all. As usual I was meeting people, showing our bags and how they fit on people’s mobility devices, encouraging people to enter our daily drawings, etc. At a point in the afternoon, a young woman and her family were going by. I asked her if she would like to enter our drawing for a free bag. After a little hesitation, she said “sure”. So, she completed the drawing slip.
I noticed she had a beautiful shade of purple on her wheelchair. I went over to our sample rack and pulled 4 bags with purple to see which one complemented her chair. She quickly informed me she couldn’t buy a bag that day. “No problem,” I answered, “but if you win, it would be helpful for you to know which bag you might want. Or sometime in the future, you may be able to buy and could have this in mind.” She then allowed me to show her the bags. One bag, Demi Jewel Swirl, perfectly reflected the color of her chair. It was picture-perfect.
For some reason out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Auti was really wheeling rapidly toward our booth, going faster and faster. She wheeled up to the young woman (YW) and asked her if she was going to buy the bag. Here’s how the conversation went:
Auti: “Boy, that is just perfect for your chair and you’ll love these bags.”
YW: The young woman ducked her head and said, “I can’t buy it now.”
Auti: “Do you like the bag? Would you buy it if you could?”
YW: “Oh, yes, it’s great. Yes, I would buy it.”
Auti: “Then it is yours. Carol, here is my credit card.”
The young woman and her family initially protested that she did not have to do that. Auti said, “I want to”. Then everyone, including me, got teary when the young woman cried and hugged Auti and joyously accepted the bag.
That would a great enough story of generosity if it ended there, but it did not. Auti did a little video putting the new bag on the back of the wheelchair. I took a picture of the 2 of them (which I will not use here due to privacy concerns). But then Auti started asking her questions about her paralysis and her journey from her accident.
Within a few minutes, Auti was counseling the young woman and her parents on issues, answering questions, identifying resources, etc. They talked for quite some time. At one point I saw the Mother literally astride Auti’s chair with her head on Auti’s shoulder in a huge hug and sobbing. After some time, Auti had to leave for her workshop. The family said that it was a miracle that this had happened and that they had desperately needed some advice from someone who perfectly understood the difficulties their daughter was struggling with since her accident. And Auti’s generosity was mind-blowing to them. I can certainly attest that everyone who witnessed this event was touched beyond words.
Later at dinner, I asked Auti why she was wheeling so rapidly and what prompted her to buy the bag. She said that she “just knew she needed to be at our booth for someone who needed her help.” So true. Thanks so much, Auti!
Check Auti out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/notautiangel.