Why I Helped an Elderly Man Find His Car After He Forgot Where He Parked It
I never got a chance to thank him for trusting me enough to help him.
Last weekend I drove over 700 miles in order to celebrate Easter with my family.
The day before Good Friday I stopped at a big box grocery store because I wanted to stock up on some food prior to setting out on my trip.
I was in a rush because I had to drop off some papers at the local university before it closed for the holiday.
After finishing my shopping, I made my way out to the parking lot to find an elderly man standing with his shopping cart directly behind my car.
Because I was stressing out about the possibility of being late for my appointment, I felt myself shoot a not-so-nice look at the gentleman as I thought to myself, “right, this is exactly what I need right now!”
Although I was annoyed at the prospect of being held up by this inconvenience, I could sense that something just wasn’t right with this man.
He was standing there with his keys in his hands, looking rather confused, and glancing frantically to and fro as he scanned the parking lot in all directions.
Something inside me told me to speak up, to offer my help to make sure this person was okay.
“Do You Need Some Help?”
The two of us began chatting, with me starting with:
“Do you need help finding your truck?”
“My car, yes.”
“Where did you park it?”
“Somewhere around here, I’m sure.”
“Alright, would you like me to take your keys and walk up and down the aisles to help you find it?”
“I’ll take your keys and walk up and down the rows until I find your car, and then I’ll come back here and get you, okay?”
The gentleman then handed me his keys, and off I went.
I spent the next 15 minutes walking all over the parking lot trying to find the car by repeatedly pushing the lock button on the man’s key fob.
No matter how many times I pressed the button, however, I couldn’t hear the sound of the car’s horn.
And Then There Were Two of Us
Bizarrely, I spotted a middle-aged woman doing the exact same thing I was doing, i.e., walking up and down the aisles of the parking lot trying to find this man’s vehicle!
Evidently, I wasn’t the first person to realize this man was in need of help.
The woman informed me that her daughter was keeping the gentleman company somewhere in the parking lot whilst she, the mother, searched for the stranger’s car.
Her and I made a plan to find the car by dividing the parking lot into two equal halves and then tackling one section each.
About 20 minutes later, we still hadn’t found the vehicle.
The woman and I had covered several thousand square feet of parking lot, and yet his car was no where to be found.
I finally realized there was only one possibility left: the elderly gentleman must have parked his car on the other side of the grocery store, forgotten which door he had initially walked through, and then exited the store to the wrong parking lot after he had paid for his groceries.
I tracked the woman down, told her about my suspicion, and the two of us then made our ways to the back of the building where the opposite parking lot is located.
“It’s over Here!”
I began repeatedly pushing the lock button on the key fob as soon as we stepped outside the store and, as I had expected, the gentleman’s car began honking.
I yelled across the parking lot, “I found it! It’s over here!”
Once I showed the woman where the car was parked, I handed her the keys and explained that I had to leave because I was late for an appointment.
We thanked each other for helping the man in need, and we then parted ways — her to find her daughter and the elderly gentleman, and me back to my car and then off to the university to submit my papers.
As it turns out, I never saw the elderly man again after initially taking his keys from him to start searching for his lost vehicle.
He never got a chance to thank me for finding his car for him.
More importantly, though:
I never got a chance to thank him for trusting me enough to help him by letting me take possession of his keys.
I made it to the university with plenty of time to spare, even though I had ‘wasted’ a solid 45 minutes helping a total stranger — somebody whom I’ll likely never see again.
The Moral of the Story
I decided to share this story for three simple reasons:
- Helping the man was the right thing to do: I know it was the right thing to do because it’s exactly what my father would do were he to encounter the same situation, and I’ve never met a more generous and selfless man than my father. I’m grateful that my dad taught me the value of helping others.
- I wasn’t the only person who stopped to lend a hand: The fact that the woman and her daughter had started assisting this man even before I had arrived on the scene not only gives me great hope for the future but also makes me feel a deep sense of gratitude for the fact that there are people like these women in this world.
- This experience shows that our initial reactions are often foolish, mistaken, and/or short-sighted: In mere seconds I had switched from feeling a selfish and self-obsessed annoyance to feeling genuine concern and worry for the well-being of another person. This experience reminded me how easy it is to become obsessed with my own needs and wants to the detriment of the needs and wants of my fellow human beings.
I don’t want to portray myself as some kind of saint who never acts according to his own self-interests or whose only mission in life is to help the needy.
That’s just not the case.
Indeed, I can be very selfish and dismissive of others at times — I’m working on being kinder and more generous, though, for what it’s worth.
Instead, the one thing I want you to take away from this story is this:
Life often presents us with unexpected opportunities to put aside our own needs in order to focus on and attend to the needs of vulnerable others. The next time you’re presented with such an opportunity, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “if I were in this person’s shoes, how would I want a stranger to treat me?” If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize exactly how you ought to act.
One last thing: Get more stories like this one here.