“Today I cried.
Not because I’m stressed out. Not because I’m angry. Not because I’m scared. I cried because of a 92-year-old man.
I was between leaving work and going to a work function today when l decided to go to Target. Not because I needed anything but because I had a few minutes to use up (child-free). It took me a little bit to feel that the energy was different. It took me a little bit to notice the people around me weren’t looking at clothes and decor. They were focused on cleaning products and food and soap and even diapers. People around me weren’t browsing the Joanna Gaines merchandise or the newly set outdoor patio furniture. It took me a few minutes but at that moment, I realized the world is different. Maybe it’s only for right now and maybe it’s forever. But it’s different.
As I finally made my way down to the paper products, I noticed a man. He didn’t have a cart, but a cane. A hat perched upon his head even at 57 degrees in Wisconsin and as I approached him, I noticed he was confused. ‘Are you looking for something sir?’
He looked at me, tear in his eye. ‘I just need some toilet paper. I’m down to my last roll at home and I need about four or six to last me the month. This is my third store today.’
As I glared at the empty shelves, I didn’t know what to say. I knew about the ‘toilet paper shortage‘ but I still was unsure why it was happening. I explained to him that with the virus, everyone was worried and unfortunately there’s been a run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer and cleaning products. I’ll never forget what he said next.
‘I’ve never heard of a run on toilet paper. I was 2 when the Great Depression hit. Those were tough times, but we all helped each through those times. Hoarding things we didn’t need wasn’t an option. I heard it was happening elsewhere but didn’t think it would happen here. I’m disappointed with all these people.’
As I stood there, wondering if ethically (a topic covered in my leadership class yesterday) I could get away with offering this man some TP from my office, literally 2 minutes away… Another customer was standing next to me at this point and she mentioned having toilet paper in her car and offered some to him.
As I watched them walk down the aisle towards the entrance, I continued my browsing. Not because I wanted to but because the tears started rolling down my face and I didn’t want them to see me bawling like a baby. He didn’t realize there was a toilet paper shortage because he’s not on social media or constantly watching the news. He’s just trying to live the routine life that he’s loved for 92 years — a life you can tell he’s grateful for.
I realized in this interaction today that there’s an entire population of people who have no idea about what is happening in real-time and they are better off for it. They are expecting people to help each other out and live harmoniously as they have in similar situations in the past. I couldn’t help but think, why the hell not? There’s no need for panic and chaos and literal mass hoarding of supplies for months on end. Sure, I think the virus is real, but this has nothing to do with a virus. It has to do with the reaction to the created hysteria that some of our most elderly people aren’t panicking over.
Forget about politics.
Forget about the media.
Forget about the 75 rolls of toilet paper you think you need.
Think about the 92-year-old man who just needed some toilet paper so he could keep living his life. And learn from him.
Today I cried. Because I realized that want versus need somehow still outweighs everything even in a pandemic and my light for hope about the future dimmed just the slightest bit more. All I can do is keep trying to change that.”
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