Strange Encounters On A Sidewalk.

In the department of random encounters, I experienced another one on a recent trip to Chicago. I’m still thinking about it. 

I take a cab from the airport to my hotel. The driver misses the hotel entrance by half a block. “This is fine,” I say.

I step out into the sunshine. Just as I begin pulling my luggage across the quiet, treelined street, I see–or think I see–a startling sight.

A elderly man, well-dressed. On his hands and knees. On the sidewalk.

I run over to him. “Are you okay?”

“No”, he says, his voice shaking. “I fell.” Blood drips from his face onto the cement.

I drop my bags, crouch beside him. “Should I call an ambulance?”

His arms are shaking. “Just need help getting up. I’ve been trying…”

I ask his name. “Okay, Harold. I’ll try lifting you.”

I stand behind him, bend down, and wrap my arms around his chest. “One, two…” After some struggle, I manage to get him standing.

Harold grabs onto my arm, steadying himself. “What are you, my guardian angel?”

I smile at this term I often use, then introduce myself. “Are you sure I can’t call for help?  Maybe your doctor?”

He says he happens to have an appointment tomorrow. “Lucky thing, huh?” Harold puts a finger to his dripping nose. “How bad is it?”

 I look closely at his wounds, trying to figure if they need stitching. I reach in my bag for a tissue, carefully dab at the cuts. He winces. “Your forehead has a gash. Looks like you smashed your nose.”

“Well there goes my movie contract.”

His joke calms my nerves. I try to clean up the dripping blood.

I retrieve his cane. “Where do you live? Can I call you a cab home?

He names a nearby suburb, 15 minutes away. His car is parked down the block and around the corner. Can I walk with him? he asks

Trepidation. Not sure I can manage that. What if he falls again? “Harold, do you think you can drive?”

“I’ll see how it goes once I get to my car.”

Then, as if on cue, a strong-looking man exits a nearby building. His eyes widen when he sees the two of us. “Need some help?”


Harold says, “This nice woman came to my rescue.”

I explain the situation and my uncertainty about Harold’s condition. The man nods as if to say, Don’t worry, I got this.

Harold thanks me, shakes my hand. I wish him good luck.

* * *

Not until I am in my hotel room, do I notice the blood on my arms.

I scrub at the sink. Surprise tears come. Don’t know why. My brain is still processing what just happened, how I, once again, found myself in the “right place at the right time” to aid a stranger

I take deep breaths.

A buried memory surfaces. My elderly father walking alone to synagogue on a Saturday morning. He trips and falls face first on the sidewalk.

 A stranger comes over to help, waits with him for the EMT to arrive.

When I later hear about this, I picture my father in his suit lying on the sidewalk. I imagine his indignity, the pain, his bruised face. But Dad’s sense of humor puts me at ease. “I’ll just tell everyone I got into a brawl,” he says over the phone. “Good conversation starter at my age.”

* * *

I recently had the pleasure of watching my granddaughter take her first steps. Then fall down. Her father gave her a hand, and she tried again, happily toddling across the floor.

Photo: Jordan Christian

In the midst of this joyful moment, the image of Harold on his hands and knees flashes in my mind. I remember every detail: his thin voice, the feel of his grey sweater vest, blood on his white shirt collar, his dress shoes straining against the sidewalk. His watery blue eyes.

My thumping heart.

I consider the strange timing of the incident, and that, oddly, no one had passed by to help him before I arrived on the scene.

Fall. Just think about how often we use that verb.

Fall from grace. Fall under the influence. Fall off the wagon. Fall into despair. Fall on hard times. Fall for the joke. Fall into a trance. Fall asleep. Fall behind. Fall apart.

Fall head over heels in love.

This can also wound.

Whether metaphorically or physically, we all fall at some point. Let’s hope someone will be around to lend a hand. 

Author: EvelynKrieger

I'm a people watcher and word crafter, author of fiction and essays. I also blog on living the creative life during hard times. When not writing, I work as a private educational consultant. Special interests: dance, the moon, astronauts, beaches, poetry, staying alive.

28 thoughts on “Strange Encounters On A Sidewalk.”

  1. Beautiful story. A fall can mean so many things. But it’s more than a story, it’s about caring enough to help someone. A man fell and you helped him stand up again. Helping a stranger can feel risky, even dangerous. I guess that’s why so many people turn the other way–better not get involved. We all know that feeling. You overcame it, and that’s beautiful. Have a wonderful day.


    1. Thank you, Christa. I didn’t really think, just reacted. Afterwards I wondered if I’d done the right thing. Could I have hurt him? Did he have a concussion? But still, it felt right and I’m glad I was there at the right time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness, this gave me goosebumps all over. The guardian angel, your father, your granddaughter, all the parallels you drew. Beautifully described and incredibly deep.

    In a random coincidence, I once happened upon my great-aunt when she’d fallen outside on a sidewalk of a store I was going to. You’ve reminded me of the surprise, humility and humor she had.

    And bless you for being there for Harold. Absolutely beautiful and inspirational willingness to see others and help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate your gracious words, Wynne. We writers think in terms of stories, connections, metaphors, and meaning which I see in your beautiful posts. These encounters can shake us and bring associations. Sometimes the insights come much later. Oddly, on a previous Chicago trip (which I wrote about in my Coincidences post), I also had an uncanny, though joyful encounter. So, with another trip coming up soon, I wonder if there will be a 3rd one in store!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful post, Evelyn ❤ I had a similar experience several years ago. I shared my experience in my blog post of 2012/08/12, "An Elderly Man Fell on the Sidewalk." Yes, we are often called on to be the guardian angel for a stranger in need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rosaliene. I’ve share the Chicago incident with others and, just like you wrote in your blog post, some asked if I was worried about a)getting COVID (No!) b)Being sued. I’ve since learned about “Good Samaritan” laws. Others shared similar experiences of encountering an elderly person who had fallen. One question that surprised me: Would I have done the same if it was a disheveled homeless man?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow! What a story. What an encounter, the serendipitous timing as if that cab-driver intentionally drove past your hotel and YOU told him right there was fine just after Harold had fallen! Hah! And you literally ride in on a yellow(?) chariot wearing your Joan of Arc armor to rescue him! 😉

    Should you and Harold ever cross paths again, I guarantee you… he’ll instantly remember you. What a GRAND entrance & introduction you made Evelyn! 🤭 When you enter a room, I bet you turn every head and the place goes totally silent, huh? hehe

    Delightful, touching, warm story. I LOVED IT! ❣️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Professor. It did seemed serendipitous. Afterwards, I thought about how everything lined up. Had the cabbie dropped me in front of the hotel on the correct side, I would likely never had noticed Harold’s distress. Since I plan to return to Chicago, who knows if we’ll cross paths again! Stranger things have certainly happened in my life. I am glad my story touched and delighted you. That is the hope of the writer for her reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Evelyn, what a beautiful and heartfelt story! And you are an angel in many ways. You are very helpful, from what I’ve known of you. You are also very kind, understanding, and empathetic. You have certain helped me when I emotionally fell in the past.

    And I can certainly understand your tears – perhaps blended with different emotions, and triggered from familiar sights of the past – given the happy memory of your granddaughter and the sad memory of your father. I, too, have had triggers in the present that reminded me of different memories of the past – whether they be happy, sad, or traumatic. I forget if they are called “memory nodes” in psychology, but my current psychotherapist reminds me that we can all experience multiple feelings at the same time.

    I would only hope that there are many kind-hearted people like you who will help us when we fall. But I must add that, in certain circumstances, some people just won’t “fall for that,” LOL (joke attempt).

    I love the fall season! (And I miss Chicago.)

    Thank you for sharing!


    1. Thank you, G. for your kind words. This is the highest compliment for me because my father was known for his kindness. What you’ve identified–the multiple feelings evoked by an incident–has many names. “Bittersweet” is one. Mixed emotions. Our English language is sorely lacking on words that truly capture the range of human emotions. Sometimes, when I find myself feeling lonely, blue, or anxious without knowing why, I try looking backward to see if I can trace its origin. Sometimes it is a movie scene, or a passage in a book. Other times, it’s a simple as seeing a photograph.
      You eloquently expressed this experience, G. As I’ve said in the past, you are a true writer and hope you continue to develop this side of your creative self.
      I am enjoying my work in Chicago! Wouldn’t it be great if we could meet up there sometime?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awe, thank you, Evelyn! Maybe one day I’ll pick up writing again. I just don’t have the energy at the moment. But I’m working on all those issues.

        It would be great to meet up in Chicago sometime!

        For the word “bittersweet,” I see that as one singular experience with multiple emotions, but in the present only, or discussing a singular past event. I’ll have to look that word up in the dictionary, to be sure. But that was my interpretation of the word.

        Indeed, the English language lacks words that capture what we’re feeling or experiencing. I know that the prefix “poly” refers to “many,” so perhaps an invented word like “polyemotive” could possibly describe “many emotions felt when experiencing present experiences.” I’m sure there’s probably a psychological, cognitive, or neurological term for this, but I’m having fun with being creative now. LOL.

        And who approves of new words in the dictionary? I’ve often wondered about that.



  6. Evelyn, what a great story. You were obviously the right person to be in that moment, at that time. My mother experienced a bad fall at home a couple of years before she passed away, but fortunately there was someone nearby who could assist her. She broke her hip, and was in the hospital for awhile. I found myself wondering during that time what kind of pain she felt initially, how frightened she was thereafter, etc. I fell on some ice several years before this, and there was no one around to help me initially. So true that whether metaphorically or physically, we all fall. I hope I will be available to help those who do, and I hope someone will help me when and if I fall again.


    1. Thank you so much. I’m sorry about your mom. I understand your concerns about her pain. When my father died of burns, that is all I could think of. It still haunts me but not in a debilitating way as it once did. I used to ice skate. These days I’m more cautious. No jumping or spinning, just gliding. I also try to work on my balance and functional movement everyday. As a dancer, this is essential.

      Liked by 1 person

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