Many of us are so busy in our day to day lives, that we don’t take the time to realize how something so small can mean so much to someone. We tend to look at things from our own individual perspectives, and value certain actions or objects based on what they mean to us. There’s the saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Not the perfect analogy here, but an action that’s no big deal to one person may be special to another.
I had one of those experiences the other day. I ran into a elderly gentleman who was in a motorized wheelchair. He didn’t look healthy, and seemed to have a sad face. He was asking people, while in a public walkway, if they could help him. Most kept walking by.
As I walked by him, slowing to get a better sense of what he was about, he looked at me and said, in a raspy voice, “excuse me, would you be willing to help me?”
Now, living in a large metropolitan area, I have seen all kinds of scams. Plus, you never know when a seemingly innocuous situation could be a setup.
That said, I still stopped and asked him, “What do you need?”
He looked at me, seemingly with relief and appreciation, and said – with difficulty – “Can you please pick up that book for me?”
Next to his motorized wheelchair was a book, almost like a diary of some kind. I looked around, making sure this was legit (you never know, I thought), and grabbed this book for him. Then I handed it to him. He took the book gently from me, hands shaking, and said “Thank You”.
He then proceeded to tell me it’s a book that’s important to him, and unfortunately he just couldn’t pick it up when it was on the ground. He had real trouble getting in and out of the motorized wheelchair. The part that hit me, though, is that he said “I really appreciate that you did this for me. Nobody else would stop and help me. They all walked by me without answering or just said no.”
It made my stomach turn when I heard that.
Then, I asked him if he needed any other help. He said “No, thank you. I just really appreciate you doing that for me. Thank you very much, it was really helpful to me.”
I followed by asking “Do you have anyone nearby to help you?”
He said “No, I live alone. It’s not easy but I have my phone with me if anything really bad happens to me. I had internal bleeding last year and a heart attack, but the ambulance got there just in time.”
I asked again if he was sure about not needing anything, and he said he was sure, and he thanked me again. Then he slowly motored onward, as I watched him move on. After a few seconds, I moved on too.
As I reflect on that situation, I think of that old man – so frail, with so little energy, and little mobility. And nobody living with him. He had a very tough existence. Yet he carried on, and showed me appreciation for helping him. I just did the right thing, nothing more.
The people that walked right by him missed out on a great opportunity for a chance encounter that could have enriched them immensely. How can we be so callous to let this be the exception, rather than the norm, when it comes to helping someone? I felt bad for being leery at first; I could have walked by him too.
I have to say, whatever small amount of help I gave him, he gave me much more back in terms of happiness for being able to truly help someone who needed it. More than that, he taught me how someone in a tough situation can still be nice to others and appreciate what they have. It was actually a moving experience.
What a great investment of my time. It paid off tremendously.
Wherever you are, sir, I hope you’re well. It was great to meet you. And by the way – thank you.