A conversation I had a couple of years ago has remained vivid in my memory. My colleague came into work one day looking upset and wan. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that on his morning walk, he heard an old woman crying and calling out the window for help. He stopped and asked the lady what was wrong. She explained that her husband had recently passed away and that she was confused, anxious and very lonely. Weeping, she explained that she didn't know what day of the week it was.
My friend calmed the woman and eventually caught his morning train into the city. As he told me this sad story, he shook his head saying, "We used to take better care of older people. Where are the families? Where is the community?" I touched my friend's hand, reassuring him that he had been there for his neighbor that morning. He had stopped to chat and he had been kind.
This week I came upon a similar story that transpired in Italy - an elderly couple were overhead crying by their neighbors. This time, the neighbors called police. The officers investigated and discovered no crime, only a very sad and extremely isolated elderly couple. Apparently it had been months since anyone had visited. The officers decided to act. They found some pots, pans, pasta, butter and cheese. They cooked.
You don't have to be Italian to know that cooking and sharing a meal deepens and reveals our shared humanity. It is a primal act of friendship.
We all have the opportunity to reach out a hand, spend a few minutes listening and perhaps share a home-cooked meal. And we can give this opportunity to others by asking for friendship when we need it, too. If you are a caregiver who feels lonely or you know someone who needs company, share this story. Kindness begets kindness.