W e were going shoe shopping on a beautiful September day: my five-year-old, my toddler, and, of course, my mother.

My mother and I each pushed a stroller. I took a deep breath, then pushed open the heavy glass door.

The store was tiny — and packed. Impatient toddlers wandered off, as mothers searched for the perfect pair of shoes. Salesmen maneuvered through the crowds, carrying precarious piles of shoeboxes. As the new school year approached, everyone wanted the perfect pair of shoes.

The little bell on the door tinkled again and again. Harried mothers followed by masses of little feet piled into the already-packed store. After making my way to the counter, I was given a tab with a number. There were three mothers ahead of me, each with a family of little ones. I took a deep breath and squeezed my way to the back of the line.

At that moment, Ezriel decided he did not want to go shoe shopping.

Ezriel didn’t really need new shoes. His sneakers were pristine, without a scratch, almost brand-new. Because my pre-K son cannot walk. He may never walk. Which is why all eyes turned to stare as my beautiful little boy started to scream, because he did not want to be in that shoe store. He does not like crowds. And on that crisp September day, all he wanted to do was continue our walk.

Ezriel’s face turned red as his screams reached a frustrated crescendo. All the other boys and girls his age were sitting on the shoe store benches, quietly waiting their turn. One by one, they turned to stare.

One boy got up and stuck his face into Ezriel’s stroller, staring unabashedly at Ezriel’s frustrated attempts to communicate.

“Would you like to say hello to Ezriel?” I asked, trying to smile.

The little boy looked up at me, then back at Ezriel. His eyes widened. He scurried to hide behind his mother.

Focusing on my own little boy, I pulled out a bottle. “Ezriel, it’s okay. Ima loves you. We will do this quickity-quick. Do you want some milk?”

All eyes watched as my son struggled to latch on to his training cup, meant for a child half his age. Finally, Ezriel calmed down. I watched as the milk dribbled into his mouth.

I stood in that crowded shoe store, with so many innocent eyes fastened on my child. They sat awaiting their new shoes, silently staring and wondering about the little boy who could not talk and could not walk. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 556)