While an elderly gentleman was trying to go down the escalator in a Massachusetts mall, a young black man approached him. He didn’t realize he was being watched when he grabbed the old man’s arm — but it was all caught on camera.
Paula Picard just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture a young man’s discreet deed. She had been shopping at Holyoke Mall in Ingleside when an 83-year-old man was cautiously inching toward the escalator leading to the lower level, likely concerned with how quickly the conveyor was moving.
Instantly recognizing his vulnerability, the young man made a beeline to the pensioner. He hadn’t suspected anyone would see what he planned to do with the elderly man, but Picard and several other bystanders were there to witness the event.
Just before the old man could step onto the escalator, 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson stepped up beside him and extended his arm, offering to escort the gentleman down the moving steps.
“The older man was paused at the top of an escalator and a few people started gathering waiting to get on. It was clear he was feeling unsure and this young man offered the simplest kindness: an out-reached arm and a ‘can I help you on, sir?'” Paula Picard wrote.
The elderly man embarrassingly explained to Johnson that he had tried to use an escalator before, telling him, “I’m 83 years old. I shouldn’t be afraid, but I got scared,” Picard told MassLive. However, Johnson had nothing but compassion to offer.
“He quietly started to explain to the young man that he had gotten stuck on an escalator once and was a little scared. The young man gently offered an assurance, they looked at each other eye to eye for just a moment and the older man accepted his arm. Everyone else remained patient. So, so sweet to witness!” she continued.
The old man clung to Johnson as he stepped onto the escalator one foot after the other, steadying himself against the young gentleman. To his delight, he made it to the lower level in no time, thanking Johnson before going on his way.
“He looked very afraid and I thought maybe I could help,” Johnson told US Weekly. “I told him — and he did, he looked very nice — I said, ‘You look nice.'”
Johnson explained that he is humbled by the attention his kind deed has garnered on social media but adds that anyone can make a difference in someone else’s life with a small act of kindness.
“Such a simple act can really make a change,” he said.
Alonzo Johnson accredited his mother with instilling kindness and service in him from a young age.
“I definitely believe in God. My Mom has me going to church, but my Mom is the reason for all of this. My Mom always tells us to be nice and do the right thing, you never know who’s watching. It’s really the way I was brought up and how I was raised,” he said.
In conclusion, Paula Picard concurred that the media would have us focus on our differences. However, she hopes the story will remind everyone that we are more than what divides us.
“In about an hour, the evening news will air and we’ll be reminded of division, race wars, political mud-slinging, shootings and other heartaches. But today, violence, race, age, politics and other social lines were blurred and one person simply helped another,” she wrote.
Johnson hopes that his deed will inspire others to go out of their way to help those in need. Even something as simple as escorting someone down an escalator can brighten their day or perhaps even change their outlook on life.
It is human nature to recognize differences in others, especially when they are as visible as that of Johnson and the elderly gentleman he helped. Still, if we can look past those characteristics and see the humanity that unites us, it’s a lot easier to put those differences aside and love our fellow man.