Anyone who has spent time caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease knows that the illness can hit hard, both physically and emotionally.
As Alzheimer’s causes the patient’s health to fail, caregivers must begin doing more of the remembering and reminding than they did before, as well as complete more of the tasks the person was originally responsible for. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to be saddled with extra tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning, and driving to doctors’ appointments. But on top of that, there’s also an emotional burden caused by the devastating realization that your loved one can’t remember some of the people and events that were once so important to them.
Julie Bick, from North Bend, Ohio, fell into this situation about a year ago, shortly after her mother died and her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She and her two children moved in with her dad to take care of him, but she’s found she spends less time “taking care” than she does “taking away.” She can no longer let her father administer his own medications, drive his truck, go places alone, or do other activities he used to enjoy.
“After some research, I found out that Alzheimer’s patients like routines, and if you break them, they can get pretty upset and emotional,” Julie says.
So she’s tried to allow her father to keep some routines that don’t pose a safety risk for him, and one of these is his weekly meeting with the local garbage man, Harold. Sometimes Julie walks with him to the end of the driveway and stays to chat, and other times she lets him go alone, but every Monday morning, he waits for Harold. It’s a ritual he looks forward to and hates to miss.
Harold is a pillar of the community, often doing small thoughtful gestures to help others, such as walking garbage cans back to a customer’s garage or knocking on the door to remind people to take their garbage out if they’ve forgotten during the holidays. And he always stops to say hi and takes time out of his busy day to have a chat with Julie’s dad.
Recently, Julie was having a particularly terrible Monday morning, spent crying on the front porch and hiding from her father to avoid upsetting him. Then she heard the rumble of the garbage truck down the street and went to find her dad, who was rummaging through the garage in search of a chair to sit on.
“I asked what he was doing and offered my help,” says Julie. “He said he needed a chair to sit down, as he is very unstable on his feet. I asked, ‘Where would you like the chair?’ as I was carrying it out of the garage. He requested I take it to the end of the driveway so he can visit with Harold.”
Julie continues: “As we were walking to the end of the driveway, my father stops me and says, ‘Harold is my friend. He is religious and I would like a moment with Harold so we can pray for you.’ I gave him his space and walked back to the porch with my eyes loading up with tears. I remember thinking to myself as I was walking back to the porch that no matter what disease my father has, it will never take away his love for me.”
So Julie left Harold and her father alone to chat and went back to the house, but she could help stopping to take a photograph of the touching scene.
“A moment like that, you just don’t see every day,” she said. “This simple act of kindness has touched me so much. Harold has touched my heart, and I knew I had to share this with friends and family on Facebook. I did, and many asked me to please make the post public so they can share it. I have, and this single post has reached thousands. There is so much good in this world, and it starts with simple acts of kindness. Harold, thank you for your kindness and prayers. I will never forget this moment.”
Despite being the garbage man in this community for years, Harold has never really known much about Julie’s father and his family. But he didn’t let that stop him from taking some time out of his day to say a prayer for Julie with her dad.
This man truly embodies the compassion that all neighbors should have for one another, and he’s undoubtedly inspired many people around him to do kind things for others. If you were touched by Harold’s act of kindness, share this story with your friends to say thank you!
This story originally appeared at InspireMore.