When a Vietnam veteran had an unfortunate accident in the middle of a Kroger store, a fellow shopper took notice. As the elderly man admitted to soiling his pants, it was obvious that he was mortified. The woman who learned of his misfortune refused to keep quiet and let it go.
Lisa Lemming Jackson, a senior caregiver at Southern Charm Senior Home Care, was out shopping at her local Kroger store in Georgia when she encountered an elderly man in a motorized cart, sitting alone in an aisle. She briefly smiled at the gentleman as the two made eye contact as they passed by each other. However, her warm greeting wasn’t received in the way she expected it to be.
Instead of a smile back, the elderly man’s eyes seemed to plead with Lisa. Although she had already walked past him, his expression compelled her to turn back. She couldn’t help but feel concerned and her gut told her something was wrong. So, she decided that she needed to see if the man was in need of any help. Little did she know, that decision would be the start of a two-hour ordeal.
Lisa went back to the elderly man, who she would later learn was named Elmer, and asked if there was anything she could help him with. She certainly never expected his answer. With tears welling up in his eyes, he said, “I have colon cancer, and I have had a really bad accident. If I get up out of this cart everyone will know.” Then, he asked her, “What should I do?”
“The look of his dignity lost left me with a lump in my throat,” Lisa admitted. She knew she couldn’t leave him to fend for himself. So, with the help of the Kroger staff, the items needed to assist with the man’s problem were gathered. Armed with wipes, fresh undergarments, a change of clothes, and her experience as a senior caregiver, Lisa discretely took the man into an employee bathroom.
As Lisa provided the assistance Elmer needed to get cleaned up, the elderly man, obviously feeling humiliated, cried and apologized repeatedly. He expressed concern about his wife, who was home alone, saying he needed to hurry up and get back to her. So, as swiftly as she could, Lisa helped wash away any evidence of the man’s accident, restoring his dignity so that he could leave the store without any further embarrassment.
After Elmer was cleaned and changed, he and Lisa returned to the front of the store where they found Elmer’s groceries were not only bagged and ready to go, but they had also been paid for by a generous stranger. The additional act of kindness left Elmer, who told Lisa he was a veteran and had fought in both Vietnam and the Korean War, crying even harder.
Elmer told Lisa that he loved his country, but up until the encounter at Kroger that day, he thought his country had forgotten about him. The admission left both the veteran and the caregiver crying. “We both cried and I shared with him my own struggles and fears,” Lisa recalled. “He gave me words of wisdom and encouraged me that maybe, after all, humanity still does care about one another. Today proved it.”
After two hours with Elmer at Kroger, Lisa Lemming Jackson left with more than she ever could have imagined when she entered the store that day, and it was something money can’t buy. “Thank you Elmer, thank you Kroger and thank you God for the lesson and reminder I received today,” she wrote. She realized people do still care enough to show compassion and help each other, but if we want to see that kind of love in the world, it starts by extending it to others ourselves.