Earlier this year, Ishmael Gilbert was working as a cashier at his local Target when an elderly woman entered his check-out line. As Gilbert rang up the women’s items, she pulled out a bunch of coins to pay for each item, separately, in change.
Standing behind the woman was a busy working mom named Sarah Bigler, who admits that her initial reaction was irritation. Realizing she was holding up the line, the older woman became flustered and embarrassed. But her cashier, Gilbert, immediately reassured her, dismissing the woman’s apologies and patiently helping her count her coins.
Bigler, who was with her two young children at the time, then experienced a shift in perspective as she watched Gilbert treat the elderly woman with compassion. She snapped a photo of Gilbert doing his job and posted it on Facebook, praising his kindness.
The story soon went viral, and Gilbert found himself at the center of the media’s attention. As he tells SuperSoul.tv in a follow-up interview, he truly didn’t think he had done anything special when he helped the elderly woman.
“I just treated her, really, like she was my grandma, to be honest,” Gilbert says. “She’s not the fastest, [but] I’m not going to huff and puff and make her feel even more frustrated. I just helped her out and actually seen a smile on her face. So, that was the best part about it.”
Once the initial attention subsided and the news crews dispersed, Gilbert went back to doing his job just as before ― albeit with a little more of a fan base. “People from other states started coming in, just to shake hands and take pictures,” he says.
One person who ended up coming into that Target was the manager of a local dialysis center. But she didn’t want a picture with Gilbert; she wanted to offer him a job.
“I was helping out, once again, another customer,” Gilbert says. “[The dialysis center manager] saw me do the same thing also, and when she came to my line, she was like, ‘Hey, I like what you just did with her. That’s really good customer service.’”
That woman gave Gilbert her card and asked him to call her. When he did, the two talked about an open position working with patients at the dialysis center, and Gilbert agreed to go in for an interview. On the interview, she had Gilbert talk to other managers about his viral story and how he approaches his customers. “They said that they can really use that at the clinic,” Gilbert says.
The 20-year-old father now works at Fresenius Medical Care as a patient care technician and is working toward becoming a certified hemodialysis technician. The center is also paying for his education as he studies to become a registered nurse.
“It’s been going great,” Gilbert says of his new job. “When blessings come my way, I say sometimes it’s not always good to ask why. Sometimes, just take them as they come.”
For more inspiring shorts, tune in to “SuperSoul Sunday,” airing Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN. You can also catch full episodes for a limited time on SuperSoul.tv or watch them on demand via the Watch OWN app.
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