‘He Was Like an Angel’: What Happens When a Man Speaks Sign Language to an Autistic Child

A local mom shared a letter she wrote about shopping with her son in Eureka yesterday. Then we tracked down the salesperson for his explanation.



To whom it may concern,

I had an amazing experience with a local salesman at Famous Footwear in my hometown of Eureka, California.  Here is the email that I wrote the corporate office of Famous Footwear….

A voyage for a new pair of shoes for my son, Caden can go a couple of ways.

1.) Online… easy peasy- no hassle BUT the shoes never fit quite right.

2.) Go to the store and actually try shoes on.

#2 won the war tonight. Just Caden and I walking through the mall.   He is waving hello to most bystanders and skipping through the food court.

We walk into Famous Footwear. Caden’s shoes are in the back. They have a desirable array of Nike’s in Caden’s size. I grab a couple of sizes. Caden is slowly getting more uncomfortable and visibly anxious. He starts to take some of the shoes and throw them in the box or in the trash.

IMG_1124A worker comes by and asks me if I need any help. I told him that I really wanted to know his true shoe size because it will make it easier in the long run. I tell him that Caden has a difficult time with things like measuring his foot, I, too, am getting uncomfortable because I tell him that today has been hard and maybe the sizing isn’t necessary. He immediately starts using sign language with Caden and talking to him, Caden continues to be anxious and sits down on my lap to hug me. The salesman lowers his voice and looks right at me and says “Autism?” and a lump begins to form in my throat. I can’t get a word out…I’m in the motion of feeling something so strong that all I can do is nod.

He tells me that his nephew has autism and that he gets it. The wall that I put up literally crumbled all around me. I acknowledged to this stranger out loud that this is a very difficult thing for Caden and any help he could provide us would be wonderful. He sat on the floor with Caden and tried on 4 different Nike’s. It took a bit for Caden to trust him, but with his knowledge of sign language it was getting easier. Caden helped Michael get the shoes that he had thrown and also the one he put in the trash. Caden picked the winning shoe and walked hand in hand to the front counter to pay with the salesman.

While he was ringing our purchase up, I signed the receipt and he said that my signature reminded him of a heart beat. He said it is so evident that your heart beats for this little guy right here. I was speechless after that.

To Michael, the salesman at Famous Footwear that has some piercings and a blue mohawk hair style, you made this mom’s heart burst wide open in the car while driving home. You took the time to see my son, you REALLY SAW HIM. You got down on the floor to his level and made it work. We found a pair of bitchin’ red and black Nikes. You saw my brave son and you honored that about him.

Thank you for helping Caden and I get a pair of shoes and on his terms. You were calm and patient and really wanted Caden to feel comfortable, I want to write the corporate office of Famous Footwear and spread the love.


Thank you!
Fatima Naylor

Michael Humphrey, the worker at Famous Footwear, explained that when Caden and his mother came in, he could tell that Caden’s mom was stressed. “I specialize in kids,” he said. “I walked over….I got down to his level. I kept making eye contact with the mom and the kid.”

When he learned that Caden was autistic, Humphrey thought he could try using sign language. “My best friend’s son that I call my nephew has autism.” Humphrey began speaking to Caden with his hands. Caden responded cautiously at first and then eventually he was able to try on shoes. Humphrey said he was glad to help. However, after Caden and his mom left, Humphrey said he didn’t expect to hear anything about it again. But, when he got off work, he discovered that Caden’s mom had written the above letter and posted it on Facebook. A friend saw it and shared it with him.

“I was having a pretty rough day,” Michael said, “Just seeing that…. .” He paused for a moment. “Because I do mixed martial arts, a lot of people have preconceptions.” People, he said, think he’s a tough guy.

Not only did the letter touch his heart, he explained, but, “my phone started blowing up….[Caden’s mom] sent the letter to Corporate. It is kind of surreal.”

“It makes you feel decent about yourself,” he said. “I’m adopted. My mom was a drug addict. I’ve been to hell and back…..I don’t often feel decent about myself.”

He might not often feel good about himself but Caden’s mom knows what she thinks. “He was like an angel,” she said.



  • Wow! What a great story about really amazing people..ALL of them!

    • I feel better about the world after getting to talk a little to these folks.

      • Me too Kym. What an awesome guy. I could live with more of these stories. I still believe that most people are great people and I learnd a long time ago that Angels come in different styles and packages. It takes a lot to put a lump in my throat and this story certainly did. Michael you are AMAZING. Keep showing your kindness and be a light in this world.

  • Finally good customer service in eureka!!!! What a nice guy….

  • I love to hear true stories like this one. Thank goodness for people like Michael Humphrey who have compassion, love, and knowledge and aren’t afraid to show it.

  • Sounds like “Corporate” should give a college scholarship to an exceptional young employee now and then.

  • Michael Humphrey: you are THE MAHN! A lot would judge somebody with blue hair as “bad” but you prove that it is just the opposite. Autism is a most difficult condition, even for the caretakers, but it’s much easier with genuine and caring people like you making a difference. Thank you very much, Michael, and I hope you realize what a GREAT person you are. Will come by and introduce myself sometime soon.

    • that’s why we should never judge a book by it’s cover 🙂 & thank you Michael Humphrey for being who you are & also thank you Fatima Naylor for sharing this touching story.

  • The fact that he had the patience AND took the time to help a child with autism says a lot about his personal character. I wish there were more people like Michael. He did a great job and should be commended for it.

  • What an amazing story and an even more amazing guy!!! Michael your kindness towards this mom and son are a bright shining star in a more than often uncaring world that we live in today. Keep it up , you will go far in life with your actions.

  • This family is very special and I’m so happy to see this shared. *tear*

    Love, Sutton’s family. 🙂

  • Thank you for Good News. It really helps.

  • Thank you for doing this story!

  • Awesome on all sides! So great to hear a positive story. Michael you are a real man! The world needs more folks like you!

  • The blue haired angel

    so hi everyone i just wanted to say i never thought things would get this big but i appriciate it so much thank you guys and gals for everything it was absolutely amazing until next time hopefully some of yall will stop in and say hi to the blue haired angel on sunday 11-3 trust me he wil be there 😉

    • Ernie Branscomb

      Thank you Micheal. Serving the general public can grind down even the most enthusiast person. You reached beyond that to help a person that truely needed your help. I am grateful that you got the recognition that you so highly deserve. And, thank you Fatima, for the appreciation you gave Michael.

      All of us have a little bit of Caden in us that sometimes need a little special attention. It is heartwarming to know that someone is capable of trying to understand our needs.

      And, of course, thank you Kym, who also loves Humboldt, and recognizes a story that needs to be told.

    • Bless you for your patience and knowledge at such a young age! Keep up the great work Michael. 🙂

    • You’re a good guy Michael.
      Ever consider running for Sheriff?

    • I have an autistic son and appreciate you for making shopping for a necessity so much better for that mom and Caden.

    • Where do you train?

    • you found your calling. There are people put in this world for a special purpose. That my friend was yours.

  • Love this story!

  • tearjerker!!
    Employee of the year!!

  • He is fantastic!! I also took my son in there to buy some shoes and he was so great with my son. Got down to his level and talked to him with such kindness. He is an example to other young people. Way to go Michael!

  • I hope Famous Footwear’s corporate office does something special for this man. I would like to do something too…any ideas?

  • I love this story!!! I sure wish more people would be like Michael!!! You go Michael You are awesome!!

  • love this story. and if you are interested in autism,for any reason be it personal or otherwise, please read NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman….I also want to add my congratulations to this man for his sensitivity and loving kindness…Additionally the mom’s story was very well written and so hearfelt; I was in tears.

  • Excellence! All the way around! A wonderfully written story about a bad day turned good by a young man showing compassion. Thank you Michael, thank you Fatima, thank you Caden, and thank you Kym!

  • Tamara Clohessy

    This is an Ellen tv show kind of story. Seriously.

  • First comment from me after years of just lurking and reading at this site. Thank you so much for this beautiful story. As the mother of a (now) adult with special needs it moved me deeply. I do so appreciate Kym’s insight and compassion in presenting stories of all kinds about the people and doings of Humboldt County. Her ability to empathize with all sorts of people, including the characters in this story is what makes this site unique. Few people understand the difficulties of raising a child with special needs and many judge them, as they judge others who may look a little unusual (blue Mohawk for example), if their child acts out in public, but until you walk that walk you have no idea of the isolation and difficulty that such parents endure. Kudos and blessings to that wonderful young man who met this child with kindness, respect and insight, that was a gift to both the child and his mother. I totally get how much the mom appreciated this gift of simple humanity and I applaud her for expressing her appreciation to the lovely young man who gave it. In the midst of reading stories in the NY Times and other journals about the degrading and unkind ways our political system is playing out, this story elevated my spirit and gave me hope for the future of our country and made me proud to have grown up in Humboldt. Bless all who were involved and thank you all for sharing.

  • Michael , you have the true qualities of a hero; humility, patience and caring. Job well done!! Lots of luck and congrats.

  • Want to stop and see Michael at work? He’s there Sundays from 11-3, Wednesdays from 1-5 and Thursdays from 4:30 to 8:30.

    • The blue haired angel

      my schedule will change every week but i will continue to post my schedule for those who want to know

      • Where is undercover boss?

      • Yes, please post it ! My grandson too is autistic and we want YOU Michael ! ! I feel working in a shoe store is just the beginning for you though !! With such compassion you should be in some sort of social service, not to say what you are doing now isn’t important though !!! Thank you for helping Caden and him mom ! <3

  • Great heart-warming story. Kindness is a gift we should all share. Thanks for this story Kym and act of kindness by both Michael and Fatima.

  • You are an angel Michael!

  • That Michael took the time to relate to the little tyke (Caden) is lovely. That Caden responded to Michael and helped find his tossed shoes was lovely. That Fatima took the time to write and send the letter is also lovely. That Kym is willing to print these great heart warming stories is also lovely. So thank all four of you folks for chipping some of the rust off my heart.

  • ” It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
    — Antoine de Saint- Exupépery, The Little Prince

    Michael is truly a Big Prince, with a big, beautiful heart.

  • What an awesome story! I grew up having to hide my Aspergers traits from my controlling mother so its great to see a complete stranger accept a child’s autism and give him some extra love till he felt comfortable, a rare thing to feel in public when your autistic!

  • What wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful person he is! This is how we roll. Bite me mass media.

  • Great stuff, young man .

  • You inspire me to want to be a better person and help others.

  • A wonderfull example of the daily life of a parent with a child who has special needs!

  • Michael, you are beyond decent. The world needs more people like you. #kindnessmatters and you have that in spades.

  • It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Thank you michael! So nice to see someone being a good person in the world just by being themselves, & being acknowledged for it.
    Perhaps the universe has provided this moment for you to receive, so open yourself and let in whatever great things are coming to you.
    Famous footwear outta up your pay for all the biz you will bring by folks knowing you understand.

    I think corporate ought to pay michael a large sum to travel to all their stores and train employees how to interact with respect towards all patrons especially kids with challenges.
    As Ernie said, we all have a bit of Caden in us

  • Corporate needs to recognize this compassionate young man for the wonderful employee (spokes person for your company), but even more than that; for the wonderful, kind person he is! He is truly a “bright star” in our world! A scholarship would be my first choice for him, after a hand shake and a hug; or as someone else has already said-give him a raise and send him out to your other stores and relate to others the kindness and compassion this extraordinary young man has to offer the world. We need more people like Michael in this world! Thank you Michael, for being “you”!

  • Great story. An important story too honoring people who can see and feel for others. <3

  • Thank you’s to Fatima and Kym for sharing such a positive story — you truly made my day!

    Michael, you have a gift of connecting with and helping others — you would make a great counselor, therapist or psychologist for young people!
    I hope you will consider those options, but whatever you do, it is clear that your presence on our planet makes the world a better place!

    You’ve certainly inspired me today to be a better person.
    Thank you!!!

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  • very sad my comment was removed when I spoke the truth. Don’t believe everything you read people.

    • I can’t allow unfounded accusations by anonymous people. If you have proof of illegal activity, then you can bring it to my attention. Otherwise, I don’t allow charges of crimes to be made unless there is reasonable proof. Usually I prefer a statement by law enforcement.

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