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After Mike fell on a busy sidewalk, a stranger helped in just the right way

The way another person stepped in to help Mike Huddleston has stayed with him ever since.
Mike Huddleston
The way another person stepped in to help Mike Huddleston has stayed with him ever since.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


In February 2000, Mike Huddleston was traveling for a training. He had flown from Maryland to San Francisco and needed to get to a rental car agency. But because of a degenerative neuromuscular condition that weakens his muscles, he wouldn't be able to climb the stairs of the shuttle bus.

Instead, the car agency sent someone to pick him up. But as he was walking outside to meet them, he fell. And due to his condition, he couldn't get up.

"I remember sitting there on my butt, in the middle of the sidewalk in front of San Francisco Airport, thinking, 'What in the world am I going to do?'"

Due to his condition, Huddleston needed something to push up on, like a bench or a chair. But there was nothing around that fit that description.

"[Then] out of nowhere, all of a sudden, I hear in my left ear, 'What can I do to help?'"

Huddleston turned his head to see a man in his late thirties standing behind him.

"I said, 'Are you kidding?' He said, 'No. What can I do to help you, man?'"

Huddleston described what the man could do to help him get off the ground. Once he got him up, the man fetched Huddleston's baggage, which had rolled a few feet away when he fell.

"He asked me if I was good and I said, 'I am because of you. So thank you very much.' He just said, 'No problem,' and turned and walked away."

This encounter struck Huddleston. Not just because of the man's kindness, but also because of the way he offered that kindness. His unsung hero didn't step in and start helping when he saw Huddleston on the ground. He took a moment to ask Huddleston how he could help.

"Different people who need assistance may need it in different ways," Huddleston explained. "So asking them how you can help them is amazingly helpful. It allows the individual who's in need of assistance to maintain a sense of self, to maybe feel a little less helpless, and maybe even a little less vulnerable."

It's been more than 20 years since Huddleston was helped up, but he continues to think about it to this day.

"His willingness to help me — and the compassion he showed in a very challenging situation — for me is something I will never forget."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Autumn Barnes