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Grocery Store Blues and Hanging With Bob

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Today, one of the sweetest ladies I know was at the grocery store. A little boy and his mom and grandmother were near her and the mom said to her son, "Don't let me forget the carrots for the reindeer."
My sweet friend goes, "Oh yes, don't forget those carrots!"
The little boy gets shy and his grandmother sneers at my friend and says, "That's right, dear. Don't talk to strangers."
Everyone is a stranger until they become a friend.
Nobody deserves a sneer for being kind, for attempting to make a connection.
My friend was dearly missing her own grandchildren and a moment that could have been lovely and warm became a moment of darkness and missed opportunity.
We have to choose moments of light.
A couple weeks ago, I started this local Facebook page called Awesome Acts of Kindness because I wanted to promote more moments of light and celebrate the goodness people can do and do do around here. One awesome woman, Jennifer Sergeant, organized a group of people to visit residents at Sonogee because it is a holiday season, because people get lonely and don't have enough social interaction.

Today, Shaun and I went to Sonogee, a retirement/nursing home and hung out with an 80-year-old man.

I went with Shaun who is a super tall, rugged police sgt who doesn't have any ounce of social anxiety unlike me. We knew that the man we were going to hang out with likes Cheetos and Coke, so Shaun rushed to the grocery store (we procrastinate) and bought a case of Coke and a bag of puffy Cheetos. I wrapped them up, but it looked blah... so I added a Santa ornament.
We got there and the liaison from the nursing home said, "You two have... Well, he's depressed. He had a fall yesterday. I'm going to bring all the other volunteers to their people and we'll do yours last. I don't think he'll leave his room."
And we were like, "Um, we don't care if he leaves his room."
She nodded. "He might not want to talk to you."

"Well, we can try," Shaun said, but I got nervous. I didn't want to bug someone because I wanted to be a do-gooder.

We watched all the other people get teamed up to play Scrabble or have deep thought-provoking talks or to arrange flowers and she brought us to our guy. He was on his bed, fully dressed, flat on top of the covers. He was tiny.

And Shaun's face lit up even as the liaison looked worried.

"I know Bob. I used to see him on the street buying scratch tickets," Shaun said. "You can leave," he told the woman who offered to sit and stay with us because she was worried our new friend was going to be non-responsive.

Bob was so far from non-responsive. It took him a minute but he recognized Shaun even though he wasn't in uniform. He perked up more about the Christmas ornament than the presents and he talked and sighed and talked and he showed us how he had no remote control for his television even though it was really hard for him to walk. Shaun unwrapped a puppy calendar for him and put it on his cork board as the man said how much he missed his dog.

"It's barren in here," Shaun said, staring at the no-longer completely empty cork board, the barren walls.

"It's damn depressing," Bob said. "Excuse my language. It just gets so lonely. You can't... I can't do a thing for you."

"You don't have to do anything for us," Shaun said.

Bob sighed and looked down at his feet.

"You are hanging out with us and being our new friend," I told him, "that's a really big deal."

And it is. I think of what happened to my sweet friend at the grocery store, about how she was dismissed as 'other,' as a stranger, as someone somehow dangerous even though she is the kindest human I know. And I think about Bob in the far end of a corridor at a nursing home, sitting in his barren room.

"People forget you," Bob said. "They forget you in here and then you have no friends. You will come back?"

"We're coming back," Shaun said. "I'm coming back with a remote and then we'll both come back soon and hang out."

"Only if you want us to," I said.

Bob's eyes lit up. "I want you to."

Shaun helped Bob into his walker. His hand engulfed Bob's upper arm. Bob took his help and said. "I can't see you all the way out but I'll see you to my door. Damn if that's all I can do."

"It's more than enough," I said and the woman who was the liaison came back and shock rearranged her face - shock and wonder.

"He is up," she whispered.

"He sure is," Shaun said. "We had a great time."

We did. We made a friend. That's what happens when you are unafraid. I hope that little boy at the grocery store manages to learn that somehow despite his grandmother. I hope he can make the choices that bring him closer to the light, to connections and to good.

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  • Tue, 17:14: Whenever anyone commits crimes against children, they commit crimes against humanity. Politically-motivated crimes against kids? Always evil
  • Tue, 17:16: You can check out UNICEF's page for what you can do to stop violence against children. http://t.co/xQcRKgGFPc #taliban

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