A 4-year-old girl named Norah and her new friend Mr. Dan have given us the glimmer of humanity we desperately need right now, breaking the news cycle burdened by violence, corruption, and overall negativity. The story of their friendship — sparked by a chance meeting in the grocery store — pushes the curtains of depression aside and shows us that the world is, in fact, still a very beautiful place.
It was on Norah’s 4th birthday that her friendship with Mr. Dan was born. It was not surprising to her mom Tara of Tara Wood, Writer that Norah wished to befriend an elderly man while they were out running errands. After all, Norah had told her mom the previous day, “I like old peoples the best ‘cos they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon so I’m gonna love ‘em all up before they is died.”
So when Norah started chatting with a gentlemen named Dan at the grocery store, Tara took it in stride. And when Norah requested a special birthday photo with him a few aisles over, her mom of course obliged. (Thankfully Mr. Dan did as well, for the rest is history.)
Tara shared this sweet story on her Facebook page, not expecting much to come of it. However, a local follower responded, telling Tara the truth about Norah’s new friend. Dan had recently lost his wife and was suffering from crippling loneliness. Tara knew this meeting had happened for a reason and that Mr. Dan needed a friend. She saw the kindness and patience he showed her child in the grocery store. She saw the smile on his face when Norah asked to take a picture with him. She knew Norah could make a difference in Mr. Dan’s life.
According to the National Institute of Health, “Social isolation is a major risk factor for functional difficulties in older persons. Loss of important relationships can lead to feelings of emptiness and depression,” which is particularly debilitating to the health of an elderly person.
Somehow, at only four years old, Norah knows just how painful loneliness can be. In her Today Parents article, Tara says, “She asks about Mr. Dan everyday. She worries about him. She wonders if he’s lonely, or cold, or has cheese for his sandwiches. She wants him to be okay. She wants him to feel loved.” And it was this gentle heart of a child that led her mother to contact Mr. Dan and arrange a visit. He joyously agreed, and he, his new friend Norah, and Norah’s mom enjoyed several hours together. By the end of that first meeting, they knew they’d made friends for life.
On their first visit, Mr. Dan presented little Norah with a rose from his garden and on a later date, a new teddy bear. She, in turn, brought him a stuffed puppy and drew endless pictures to decorate his refrigerator. He’s been invited to the Wood family’s house for Thanksgiving. And on October 20, for Mr. Dan’s 82nd birthday, guess who brought him cupcakes and balloons?
The National Institute of Health also describes the importance of the elderly having friendships (which are voluntary relationships), not just familial interactions (which can be perceived as obligatory). It is a powerful remedy for loneliness to have someone forge a friendship and solicit social interactions with the person in isolation. Norah has done just that for Mr. Dan.
Although their introduction began with “Hi old person! It’s my birfday today!” (a moment that made Tara want to hide in embarrassment), it has now blossomed into a true friendship that is helping Mr. Dan heal and find a reason to smile every day. He confessed to Tara that he hadn’t slept well since his wife passed away in March, but now, he is able to sleep peacefully.
And Mr. Dan is not the only one benefitting from this relationship. Little Norah is learning what true friendship means. Her new buddy is 78 years older than she is, yet they enjoy each other’s company. Tara has been able to share the story of Norah and Mr. Dan with her Facebook followers, so we can all enjoy the sweet moments that emerge out of their weekly meetings. Because of the pure heart of a 4-year-old, we are reminded of the goodness that still exists in the world.