"I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet."
-- Ancient Persian Saying
-- Ancient Persian Saying
We were driving down the country road on our way to the gym as we do almost every weekday and about a half mile down the road we saw a little old lady, standing in the 3 foot steep ditch, trying to yank at her lawn mower stuck in a gully.
My husband said, "Should we stop?" and I said, "Sure." He looped around and pulled over to the opposite side of the road. We walked across the busy country highway and asked if she needed help. The little old lady looked up and frantically said, "My lawn mowers stuck." My husband immediately started pulling at the lawn mowers steering wheel, rocking it back and forth until it broke free. The old lady tried with all of her might to push from the back. She wanted to help too, and wouldn't give up helping. It took them only a second to move the lawn mower out of the ditch onto a better landing. Exhausted and relieved she sat down and started to cry telling us how her husband died and that her kids were making her sell this place and she doesn't want to sell her house.
She said, "I love being out here, cutting the grass weeding the garden". She said, "My kids stuffed me in a little apartment, and all I do is sit and watch TV, there is nothing to do."
She told us more about her story and we stood there listening. While my husband interjected with his short comments of concern. After a while, she said that she needed to finish cutting the grass. We told her it isn't necessary to cut the grass in the ditch, the longer grass in the ditch will be fine, of course, we didn't want her to get stuck immediately after we drove off. We said good bye and headed back to our truck. I started to tear up as we drove away.
It's funny how everyone has a story and we live our lives only to be told what we may not want to do when we are fragile and older. I saw many cars whiz by as we were helping the little old lady get unstuck so she could continue her endeavor. This isn't a story of how we came to save the day; however, it is only a reflection of how we do not take that moment to stop, listen and help an older person.
When I was visiting my daughter in Madrid, Spain, we took public transportation everywhere. They had security and police operating the station tunnels. The trains were packed, literally, like sardines. There was one rule that was eagerly enforced and that was, if an elderly person came on the train, and you were younger than them, you were to give up your seat so that that older person could sit down. They would fine people who didn't follow this rule. I thought this was kind, special and indeed gracious, because a person lives their entire life, building their stories with families and friends, only to grow old and to look back on these wonderful stories with respect and grace.
I felt good about that top-priority law that they enforce in Spain. I wish our country would consider enforcing a similar rule like this because the way I see old people treated now is sad, very sad. They live their whole life giving to others, working hard, raising their family, giving back to their communities, and all they get in return is the decisions to stuff them up in a small room with a television and bed.
After this moment, stopping, helping a little old lady push her lawn mower out of the ditch, I realized it only takes one small second to make a difference in a person’s life; a simple smile when I pass a person walking on the sidewalk, opening the door for a person when walking into a store, meaningfully saying excuse me, when I am in someone’s path. These are simple things that can make someone’s big problems disappear, if only for a moment.
As we drove back home after our work-out at the gym, we pass the little old ladies vacant home with a for sale sign perched on a post in front. The grass was cut, hedges trimmed and the lawn mower put away for next time. I imagined the little old lady settled, content, on her sofa, smiling and feeling good. Her grass is cut and she was able to share her stories with some new friends.