When I first heard about what happened to Howard, I was at Shady Grove hospital, with an IV attached to my arm. I was awaiting the results of my emergency MRI with potential diagnoses of "mini-stroke" and "multiple sclerosis", which were later ruled out. That day, I also heard about the most recent threat by the Islamic Sate (ISIS), which vowed to attack high-end shopping malls in my home country of Jordan where most of my family dwells, including my parents, sisters and my 100 cousins (Yes, you read that right, 100).
My whole world was falling apart that day, but this didn't prevent me from immediately sharing what happened to Howard on social media to my friends and family.
Howard is a cashier at my neighborhood Safeway. He is known among our community as the "World's best cashier" for his "Spinning and winning" game show and his very pleasant persona. People would line up to have their groceries checked out by him so that they can watch his demonstration. He would turn the grocery shopping experience into a game show where you would "spin" and then "leave out a winner." He had a a radio voice quality to him that many in the community thought he should pursue a career in show biz. If you were having a bad day, all you had to do was go to Safeway to see Howard who will immediately leave you smiling.
This video below that was filmed by one shopper at Safeway two years ago shows Howard in action:
In addition to his famous game show, Howard knew his customers on a personal level and checked on them whenever he saw them. He is an icon of our small Twinbrook community in Rockville, Md.
So while I was in my hospital bed anxiously awaiting the results of my MRI, my husband told me what happened to Howard. Howard who worked for Safeway for at least seven years or more, was sacked while on vacation because of a scheduling conflict. When the neighbors found out about it, they took action. Using the social network Nextdoor, a resident of Twinbrook informed the community of his firing, and urged them to write to Safeway's management and ethics department to reinstate him.
The community also started an online petition asking for his rehiring. It was signed by over 600 people.
Other members of the community took to Twitter and started the hashtag #rehirehowardsafeway, while others offered to find him a job, and some took to LinkedIn to find contacts of top Safeway executives. Others went the traditional route and called top Safeway management to complain.
"Crazy! That guy was literally the only good thing about that store. I'm writing Safeway, too. Thanks for the information," one neighbor wrote on Nextdoor.
Commenting on his YouTube Video, another neighbor said: "That video needs to go viral and be picked up by someone who can really employ his talents. He should be on the radio or something with that awesome voice of his."
Neighbors also contacted the local media, hoping they would pay attention to what was going on. A local blog picked up the story.
Eventually, Safeway listened to the neighbors' complaints and rehired Howard. Neighbors were encouraged to contact the person who was responsible for hiring him to thank him personally. The day I was released from the hospital, I headed to Safeway first thing. I still had the plastic bracelet from the hospital that said "fall risk" when I entered the store. I ran to his station and gave him a big hug and told him how happy I was he was back. Right behind me was a woman who informed him that she made a point to come to Safeway that day to welcome him back. "You have no idea how many lives you've touched," she told him.
As I write this story, my neighbors are discussing the details of a party that they will throw for him this weekend at the store to welcome his arrival back to work.
I'm beating myself up for ignoring the micro level of my existence, my own community, while focusing my whole attention on the global issues that took a toll a huge toll on my health and my mental sanity. I was too busy focusing on the horrors of ISIS, that I completely forgot that we as a community can make a difference in our small surroundings. The world these days is in need of a good story like Howard's. You might not be able to change the world, but you can definitely leave an impact in your own small surrounding. Kudos to the power of community that is bringing us the good stories that we are constantly striving for.