Random Acts of Kindness: Toddler on a slide dangled with life in jeopardy, until ...

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Recent family events have made me even more grateful, if that's possible, for a random act of kindness performed by a complete stranger more than 25 years ago.

I have thought about this person often though the years and wonder if she ever recalls the day when she ran to my aid. I am writing about it in the paper in the event she reads this, as I hope to let her know how very thankful I am and to let her know the outcome of her act all these years later.

When our first son, C.J., was about 11/2 years old and I was pregnant with our second son, David, I took C.J. to one of the playgrounds in Schenley Park, located at the end of the bridge that leads from Phipps Conservatory toward Squirrel Hill.

After a ride on the baby swing, C.J. toddled over to the slide, gesturing and babbling that he wanted to slide down.

He had been on short baby slides at other playgrounds but never on a higher "big boy" slide like this one.

Although he was too young to go down himself, I decided to slide down with him. Not the smartest move in retrospect, but it's easy to be swayed by a small, happy child with rosy cheeks on a pretty spring day when all seems right in your little world.

The climb up the ladder was uneventful, and we settled down to sit together at the top without much trouble. Just as I went to let us go down the slide, however, C.J.'s foot got caught in the handle bar at the top and he started to fall over the side.

Because I was starting to slide down, I couldn't untangle his foot. So here I was, holding onto him for dear life with my left hand as he dangled over the side, while I held onto the other side of the slide with my right hand, desperate not to let gravity pull me down.

I knew if I slid down, I would be unable to hold onto C.J. and he would fall to the ground head first. Twenty-five years ago, playground surfaces weren't nearly as soft and kid-safe as today, and he would very likely have been permanently disabled or even killed. Even with today's surfaces, he would have likely been severely injured.

I began to scream while looking around frantically for anyone who could help. To my dismay, the park was empty except for two people on a bench at the other end of the playground. They came over as soon as they were able, but it became apparent they would be unable to help -- it was a frail elderly man and a blind young woman who appeared to be his granddaughter.

I was panicking, my arms shaking, as I felt my grip on both C.J. and the slide weakening. Cars drive by this playground quickly, and it's easy not to notice what's going on in the play area, but one woman did notice. She stopped her car on the busy road and came sprinting across the lawn.

Without waiting to listen to my hysterical explanation, she climbed up the slide and took C.J. in her arms. Although he was now safe, I didn't want to let go.

Finally, her kind and reassuring voice gave me the courage to slide down. When I reached the ground, she handed C.J. back to me.

My arms were like wet noodles -- from the adrenaline, I suppose. Then, because her car was in a precarious place on the road, she left just as quickly as she had come. I was so relieved, and yet so shaken, that I am not even sure I thanked her.

Because of this woman's help, my husband, Ron, and I were able to raise our two sons along with our daughter, Emily, who came along four years later.

C.J. is now a journeyman electrician with the IBEW Local 5. He is big brother and best friend to David, a civil engineer. They are both terrific young men who spend time each month doing volunteer work. Our family has grown and been blessed, especially this summer when C.J. married Ashlee and David married Natty.

One blessing we will certainly never forget is the random act of kindness performed by that passing motorist 25 years ago.


Janet DeAngelo of Plum can be reached at jdeangelo82@gmail.com. Has someone done you right? Send your Random Act of Kindness to page2@post-gazette.com, or write to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. First Published September 27, 2012 4:00 AM


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