Tara Wood and her daughter, Norah, walked into Publix on Norah’s birthday to buy cupcakes and they walked out having made a new friend.
“We’d passed several other elderly customers but she seemed magnetically drawn to this man,” Wood wrote. “Her face lit up like the sun, she waved excitedly, and said, ‘Hi old person! It’s my birfday today!’”
At first, Wood was worried the man wouldn’t welcome Norah’s bright personality and her invitation to have a chat. She told The Huffington Post that he actually “looked angry” before the encounter.
“When it was him that she chose to interact with, I was holding my breath that he didn’t bark at her,” she told HuffPost. “Just the opposite, though. He melted and you could see an emotional and physical transformation right in front of your eyes.”
After chatting with whom they learned was “Mr. Dan,” Wood continued shopping with Norah. Just minutes later, though, the 4-year-old asked if she could take a picture with her new friend for her birthday.
“It was the cutest damn thing ever,” Wood wrote on Facebook.
Wood quickly tracked Mr. Dan down. He and Norah then posed for a picture and “hugged each other like they were long-lost friends.” When Wood thanked the man for the picture, he thanked her as well.
“He teared up and said, ‘No, thank you. This has been the best day I’ve had in a long time. You’ve made me so happy, Ms. Norah,’” Wood wrote.
Norah and Mr. Dan’s friendship has now gone beyond Publix. Wood has taken her daughter to visit him multiple times. Once, Norah brought him a puppy stuffed animal so Mr. Dan wouldn’t be lonely (Wood told HuffPost his wife passed away). They also celebrated his 82nd birthday with him last week.
“We brought balloons, a gift, sang happy birthday to him. He let her blow out the candle,” Wood told HuffPost. “He teared up as he looked at her and said, ‘Norah you’ve already made my wish come true.’”
Wood has learned a lot about Mr. Dan since Norah first spoke to him. She described the man as “incredibly interesting” and “remarkable.”
“He’s been a college professor at universities all over the country. He’s written textbooks. He’s a real academic,” Wood said. “He has a pilot’s license!”
After seeing how much Norah and Mr. Dan enjoy each other’s company, Wood has no plans on letting their friendship fade. She also hopes the sweet tale of how they became friends will motivate others to simply take a moment to do what Norah did at Publix.
“I would love for people to take a minute to ask an older person how they’re doing and really listen to them,” she said. “To invite them into their homes for coffee. To take them a meal or surprise them with flowers for no reason, whatsoever. To check in on their grandparents more often.”
Wood added that her daughter is proof that a small gesture can make a big impact.
“A single impulsive encounter can change lives if we just allow it,” she said. “I know it to be true.”