In need of a few small things at the grocery and a desire to just get out of the house and be among people, she took a trip to the local Kroger's. Since there were only her own needs to satisfy, she walked up and down the aisles with a small cart. With just six items, she headed to the checkout.
He wandered the store. He'd come for a cup of hot soup and perhaps someone to talk to. The soup was good, it always was, but no one wanted to talk to an old man. Disappointed, he was about to leave when he saw her. She headed to the checkout with only a few items.
"Good morning, Ma'am." He smiled, "You can't leave yet?"
She turned toward the voice. A well dressed man smiled at her. "Excuse me?" she asked.
He pointed to the six items she'd selected. "Your basket is not full."
"There's no need to buy a lot." she replied. "There's no one to eat it."
He stared at her for a moment and said, "I'm so lonely!"
"I know what that's like."
In the middle of an aisle, in a large grocery store, at 11:30 AM, they stood and talked. "My wife and daughter died." he said. "They died too young." His eyes softened as he spoke briefly of them and then added, "and just recently, I lost my little Pomeranian. She was all I had left. Now I'm alone."
"I'm so sorry." She felt her own eyes moisten. He was as alone as she was.
"It's OK." he said bravely. "I hope I can find another dog like her. She was such a joy. At least someone needed me. She gave me purpose. Now I have none. Perhaps I'll get another, but at my age, I don't want to leave her alone when my time comes. Then again, I have this big house. A dog would be happy there. I've lived in it for fifty years. It has big rooms."
"Oh, the homes were built big back then. It was a time when people had large families." She smiled and wondered where the conversation was going.
"They sure did. This old place has four bedrooms. Three of them are empty. It's just me now." He sighed. "There's not much to do. My days are empty. I do get out as often as I can. In fact, every morning I go to McDonalds for breakfast."
"Good for you!" she said. "I try to get out as much as I can myself."
"Those kids at McDonalds are very nice to me. They always greet me with a smile and make such a fuss over me. They're almost like having grandkids. And you know what?"
He leaned close and whispered. "They let me have my coffee for free. What do you think of that?"
"That's wonderful!" She knew the joy it must give him to feel welcomed.
They chatted for perhaps twenty minutes. "Well," she looked into his eyes, which now sparkled with pride over the family he had at McDonalds. "I must be getting home."
"I understand." The sparkle faded. "It was nice talking to you."
"It was nice talking to you too." She touched his hand. "I mean it."
He looked back at her and asked softly, "Can I give you a hug?"
A bit taken by his request, but fully understanding his need, she said, "Yes!"
There they stood, in a warm embrace, in the middle of a busy grocery, on a normal day, that was made special by a simple hug.
That evening, she reflected on her encounter with the man. She felt like he did, alone in the world. How many others her age felt the same loneliness? How many seniors just need a kind ear and perhaps a simple hug?
Michael T. Smith
This is a true story from one of Michael's readers. When she heard we were using the story she said, "Oh Mike! That is wonderful - not because it is our story but because the subject is being brought to the fore in such a manner!
Michael lives with his lovely wife, Ginny, in Caldwell, Idaho. He works as a project manager in Telecommunications and in his spare time writes inspiration stories. He has recently been published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul Books (All in the Family and Things I Learned from My Cat), in "Thin Threads - Life Changing Moments" and in Catholic Digest.
To read more of Michael's stories, go to: http://ourecho.com/biography-353-Michael-Timothy-Smith.shtml#stories