My Unsung Hero series: A man remembers a helpful employee at a shoe store
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Time now for "My Unsung Hero," our series from the team at Hidden Brain. "My Unsung Hero" tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.
Back in March, Joe Arrigoni took his wife, Joani, to the shoe store. Joani lives with early onset Alzheimer's. And that morning, she had been insisting that she needed new shoes even though she already owned many pairs. So after Joe got tired of arguing with her, he agreed to take her to the shoe store. When they got there, Joani began to wander around. He didn't know where she went. But then, he heard her voice.
JOE ARRIGONI: And she's talking to the salesperson that she found. And I peek around the corner, and the saleswoman, Michelle, asks her to place her foot in a little metal slide that they use to get the width and the size. And because my wife has a hard time following directions 'cause of her illness, she puts her hand down on the measuring tool. And Michelle says, that's OK. Why don't you just stand up and I'll put the tool underneath, and we'll measure your foot that way. And Michelle is like, you know, some things are difficult. You know, I struggle too, she says, 'cause I have some anxiety, and I also have autism.
And when I heard that, I - it - it just broke my heart because I couldn't generate the patience and the compassion. And here was this salesperson who - my expectation was that they're not going to be able to understand Joani, and I'm going have to step in and do everything anyway. And they had just created this beautiful moment. And it still chokes me up a little bit.
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ARRIGONI: When you're a full-time caregiver 24/7, sometimes that can take a toll on you, and your level of compassion or hope can get depleted. And so you can be just desperate for some type of relief from that responsibility. And when someone who, themselves, already has difficulty navigating our world is caring for your loved one with more patience and compassion than you can muster at that moment, it's doubly impactful. It's beyond words, and it's a beautiful thing.
PFEIFFER: Joe Arrigoni of Orland Hills, Ill. By the way, they did find Joani a pair of shoes, and Joe was able to go back into the store and tell Michelle thank you.
You can find more stories from "My Unsung Hero" wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.