Two weeks ago while at the grocery store an older lady and I hit the check out lane at about the same time. She had fewer items than I, so I encouraged her to step in front of me. She declined, saying she really wasn’t in a hurry. As I was putting my items on the conveyor belt, a store employee opened a new lane and instructed the lady behind me to move there. As she and I left the store at the same I told her, “Your kindness and patience was rewarded. You didn’t have to wait in a check out line.” A pretty simple and casual comment, right? Here’s her response.
I guess I deserve a little good luck. A few months ago my husband died suddenly and then I had a massive heart attack.
Introvert that I am, I thought that was a lot of personal information to share with a total stranger. I happen to not be someone who preys on vulnerable older adults, so I gave her my office phone number (I’m a development director for a non-profit that serves older adults) and told her about our active aging centers and all of the activities we offer.
Fast forward to last week at the same grocery store. An older gentleman was in the check out line behind me. He said hello and something about having to work all day, then buy groceries for dinner. I gave some sort of light hearted response on the order of, “Yes, and unfortunately the groceries don’t cook themselves.” His response?
And it’s hard when you’re a widower.
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of lonely people out in the world. They need a voice. They want to talk and connect. I can chat with the best of ’em when I’m “on” at the office talking to a donor, talking with a coaching client, at church or out with friends. But when I’m not “on” I tend to retreat into my own head. I recently made a personal commitment to be more in tune to others when I’m “on my own time.” As a result, either I’m more mindful of others who need to be heard, or they are just showing up more. I think it’s a little of both.
I wonder how I can be of service today.
It is a growing segment of our society and we all need to do our part to help these people not feel alone.