I have a sweet story for you. I was on the phone talking to an old guy and he was telling me how worried he is about what’s going on in the world. He’s 88 and lives with his wife in a community that is shut down, they have to wear masks to the grocery store, which is the only place they go, and the local news on TV is bleak with stories of their Main Street businesses folding and talk of poverty increasing all around them. He doesn’t do social media and he isn’t one to look for solutions or social connections on the internet. Cable television is his main source of information and what he sees is disturbing.
A few days ago, on a trip to the supermarket with his wife, wearing masks and social distancing, he thought he saw in the aisles of the store the same story he had seen on the news. He saw people who seemed to be poor and struggling. An elderly woman walked up and down the rows of food, picked up items and looked at them, then put them back on the shelf. She was carrying a shopping basket, but it was mostly empty. He saw an obese man in a wheelchair who had a big bruise on his forehead, and a tired woman in worn shoes trying to wrangle a batch of kids while she filled her cart with food for her family. He saw these people and it nagged at him that he wanted to offer them some help, but he didn’t know how. He’s 88.
Then while he was standing in line at the check-out counter, fishing for his credit card in his pocket, preparing to pay for his own groceries, he had an idea. The store manager was standing nearby, so he told him what he planned to do. And then he paid for the groceries of the shoppers he had seen that he wanted to help. The little old lady, the man in the wheelchair, the mom with the kids. He ended up buying groceries for ten different customers, spending hundreds of dollars in a matter of minutes. He said it made him feel so good it was like he was high. Everyone was wearing masks, but their eyes were wet and smiling, people were overwhelmed with gratitude, and he felt like a surprise Santa.
Even when he told me this story on the phone a few days later, I could feel his elation through the ether. His random act of kindness had given him a huge lift at a time when he and his wife are very isolated and concerned about the future. And hearing his energy over the phone gave me a lift, too, because I’ve been worried about him. You see, the guy is my dad.