On a recent grocery store run, something remarkable happened. It was a Saturday, around noon, less than two weeks before Christmas, and the store was madness. This was defensive shopping: carefully looking around the aisle before exiting, pushing the cart tight against the merchandise to make room for people buzzing by, and lines. Long, long lines. I looked around, knowing that I had 15 to 20 minutes to kill before I could put my stuff on the conveyor belt,
Behind me, I noticed an elderly man in a motorized shopping cart. He was struggling to get a can onto the conveyor belt. I quickly moved to help him with the rest of his groceries.
Realizing that he was alone, I settled my bill, and let the attendant know I’d stick around in case the man needed my help. It wasn’t more than five minutes before the elderly man was ready and noticed I was still there. He looked to the attendant, who explained that I was there to help him to his car.
The man was grateful, and said he had a story for me. Closer to the exit, with a little more freedom from the crowds, he explained that only a week before, a gentleman in line ahead of him at the store had also offered to help, and had asked if he was a veteran. The elderly man replied that he was, and the gentleman nodded, thanked him for his service, and left shortly after. When the elderly man went to pay his bill, he was told that the gentleman ahead of him had already taken care of it.
After telling me the story, the elderly man said how grateful he was for the help of strangers, and regretted that he wasn’t able to tell the gentleman thank you.
After I finished loading the groceries into the man’s car, he thanked me for taking the time to help. I walked across the parking lot with a glow. It wasn’t just that I had done a good deed, but something greater than that. I was proud to live by the lessons my grandparents and family imparted to me — if you can do so, help. Respect your elders. It only takes a few minutes to be kind. It felt good to help, but more importantly than that, it feels good to live in a community in which an elderly veteran who is wheelchair bound can go to the store confident that a perfect stranger will give him the help he needs. I live in a place that pays the service our veterans did forward, and gives back to the elders that helped build our community. As we enter into a crazed time of year, I am grateful to be in such a community. A community rich with the spirit of giving.
A.J. Wahl is a Gearhart resident.