Aldon O’neill Ward III is like the Mr. Rogers of his neighborhood. His gentle demeanor and compassionate nature unfailingly make everyone he encounters smile. He’s such a good soul that everyone wishes they lived right next door to him – just like Mr. Rogers!
While people commonly laugh and smile around him, it was different one day when a familiar elderly woman walked past with tears in her eyes.
It was at that moment Aldon knew it would take more than a kind remark or a clever joke to get her smiling again.
“She looked up at me through her large blinder style sunglasses and with a trembling voice said, ‘I don’t have him anymore.’ My heart sank.”
Instead of fumbling for words or waiting for further details, Aldon did what he felt was needed the most. He rushed out and gave her a tight, warm hug. It was a touching encounter that was fortunately captured by his home’s security camera. On a Facebook post, Aldon recalls the first few instances he saw the elderly woman.
“Since 2011 I’ve seen an older couple walking the neighborhood every morning and evening. Matching windbreaker outfits, large white new balance sneakers and a stick in hand. Always saying what a beautiful day it was even if they were walking in the rain without an umbrella. We never exchanged names but I knew where they lived and they knew where the boys and I lived.”
The couple would always enjoy a quick chat with Aldon. They never failed to wave at him whenever they would pass by, even blowing kisses at Aldon’s excited dogs. What ever the weather, the couple were always in a good mood.
Until that sad day when he realized what happened.
“I’m watering my freshly laid sod. Griswold, my standard poodle, is close by vigilantly protecting me from dragon flies and the occasional squirrel. A windbreaker suit swooshes slowly down the street below. Alone, the woman approaches. I wave, she waves. I exclaim in a joking manner, ‘Where’s the better half?'”
The woman could only shake her head in reply. A shoulder to cry on was all she needed at the moment.
When she opened her mouth to say her husband had passed, her compassionate neighbor ran to be by her side. He didn’t hesitate.
Knowing she was with someone she could trust, the elderly woman broke down sobbing into Aldon’s chest. After a few minutes, she finally managed to utter a few words.
“I’m just trying do the things that we used to so I still feel like he’s around…. I needed that.”
Losing someone leaves a hole in one’s heart that can never be filled again, but it means a lot to have someone who’s willing to comfort you and remind you that you are never alone. It’s even better to be that person for someone else. Grief is a struggle that one shouldn’t have to face alone. Fortunately for the elderly woman, she had Aldon to lean on.
Here’s hoping Aldon’s story inspires all of us to extend more kindness and empathy, even to strangers.
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