The first time a Kroger employee named Erin Hoffman locked eyes with a toddler who has Down syndrome, she knew they were meant to be friends.
Hoffman, who also has Down syndrome, is an employee at a local Kroger. She is known for her cheerful attitude and strong work ethic, and one of the favorite employees among shoppers.
One day, Hoffman saw a mother come through the checkout line with a toddler in her cart.
Hoffman thought the boy might also have Down syndrome, noticing his physical appearances somewhat resembled her own features.
“Erin was bagging our groceries, and she asked me if he has Down syndrome, and I said, ‘Yes, he does,'” the boy’s mom, Allyson Mize, said.
Hoffman looked into little Charlie’s eyes and felt that she had made an instant friend.
The following week, when Mize and Charlie came back to Kroger, Hoffman spotted them and said hello.
“I felt a lot of connection when he was looking at me with his eyes,” Hoffman told USA Today. “I could tell by his eyes that he’s connected to me.”
The first time Hoffman asked if she could hold Charlie, the boy went straight into her arms without hesitating — something he does not always feel comfortable doing.
Mize took a photo of Charlie in Hoffman’s arms and showed it to her husband, who loved that his son had made a “chromie connection” with another person.
Hoffman’s enthusiasm for her work is seen in the way she smiles and greets shoppers in the store, making sure everyone feels welcome.
“She’s kind to everyone, not just me,” Mize said.
When Charlie goes shopping at Kroger, he gets to help Hoffman bag groceries and if she has time, she will push him up and down the aisles while he rides in the cart.
When Mize sees Hoffman working and contributing her talents to the store in her own unique way, she is encouraged that Charlie’s future will be bright, too.
“Anytime you see any person with special needs, it’s always, to me, inspiring to see them in the workplace because it just proves to the rest of the world who might have any doubts or concerns that they can do that too,” Mize said.
“It gives me hope for Charlie’s future of all the things he might be capable of.”
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