He never thought it would happen to him, but now he found himself in the middle of a grocery store with no idea what to do next. He had soiled himself as a result of his colon cancer, and his wife was alone at home. He didn’t know what to do, so he bravely asked the help of a complete stranger.
I just spent 2 hours with an elderly man at the local Kroger. It started with me just smiling at him, making eye contact—and as I walked by him, he looked like he was in need of something.
Sensing something was wrong, I went back and asked him if he needed any help. Tears welled up in his eyes when he told me he had colon cancer and just experienced a really bad accident. I knew what he meant by that. He asked me, “If I get up out of this cart, everyone will know, what should I do?”
The look on his face showed me that he had lost all sense of dignity and left me with a big lump in my throat. I knew I had to help him somehow, so I quietly spoke to two nearby Kroger employees who knew exactly what to do. One of them walked off and quickly returned with wipes, undergarments, and together we discreetly took him to the employer bathroom area where could put on new clothes.
He cried and apologized for being difficult, but the Kroger employees said it was no big deal and that he shouldn’t feel bad about it. He told us that he had to hurry home to his wife, who was home alone.
When we walked to the register, I found that one of the Kroger employees had bought and paid for all the things he had in his cart. He tried to hold back tears when he saw that, and told us that he fought in Vietnam and the Korean war and loved his country, but up until today he said that he thought nobody appreciated his service.
I shared my own struggles and fears, if only to empathize with the poor old man. He imparted a few words of wisdom and told me that my actions and those of the Kroger employees who helped him helped him to renew his faith in humanity. Today proved it.
Thank you Elmer, thank you Kroger, and thank you for the lesson and reminder I received today.
She couldn’t have known what was really going on with the man, but she decided to ask anyway. Looking after the elderly is important. One day, it may be you who needs help, and in this way, we pay it forward and hope that our small act of kindness will help someone else’s life become just a bit easier.
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