ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This next story comes to us from the Kind World podcast where people talk about a single act that changed their lives - in this case, words exchanged at a grocery store. Reporter Erika Lantz takes us to Augusta, Ga.
ERIKA LANTZ, BYLINE: After his wife died, Dan Peterson (ph) didn't know what to do with himself. He spent a lot of time in his garden remembering his wife's favorite flower - white roses.
DAN PETERSON: I've never been able to get a white rose to grow. All mine are red.
LANTZ: Before she died, Dan and his wife would do everything together. Now the world just felt darker.
PETERSON: I'm sitting here, staring out the back window of my house, just waiting it out to see how I was going to live.
LANTZ: One day on a dreaded grocery run, Dan felt particularly depressed.
PETERSON: I hadn't shaved for a couple of days, and I hadn't had a haircut probably for three months and didn't really give a you-know-what about everything except, well, what do I do tomorrow? Watch squirrels?
TARA WOOD: He didn't look like the friendliest man.
LANTZ: Tara Wood was at the grocery store that day with her 4-year-old daughter, Norah.
PETERSON: And all of a sudden I come to the end of the hall or aisle and here is this little girl. And she's sort of bouncing up and down and pointing at me. And she said, hi, old person. Today's my birthday.
NORAH WOOD: I thought he needed a friend because he was sad.
PETERSON: When you have a little girl bouncing up and down and being so happy to be alive, you know, you sort of change.
WOOD: He said, well, hi, little lady. How old are you today?
LANTZ: Little Norah told her mom she wanted a picture, so the 81-year-old and the 4-year-old posed for a photo. Norah asked him for a hug.
WOOD: I don't know. It was magical and profound. And it's this cosmic sweetness that happened, you know, right in front of the dairy section of the grocery store.
LANTZ: Tara posted the photo on Facebook, and a woman wrote in the comments that she knew Dan and it was the first time she'd seen him smile since his wife died. So Tara called him and planned a visit.
WOOD: Norah just ran right up to him like she's known him all of her life. She was climbing all over him like a monkey and...
PETERSON: And of course, every time I turned around she'd come back over and hug me again.
NORAH: I just promised that I loved him.
LANTZ: I just promised I loved him, she said. When it was time to leave, Norah and her mom passed the rosebush by Dan's front door.
PETERSON: And it just blossomed a great, big, red rose.
LANTZ: Norah leaned over to smell it.
PETERSON: And it was precious to me. It's the only thing I had to give back. So I cut it and gave it to her.
LANTZ: With his pocket knife, he slowly carved each thorn from the stem and handed it to Norah.
PETERSON: That sort of sealed our friendship, I think.
LANTZ: From then on Tara decided Dan was family.
PETERSON: They come over about every week now.
WOOD: She just blows in like a whirling dervish, plunders through his cabinets, and he slaps his knee and laughs and laughs and laughs.
NORAH: I go in his garden where he grows vegetables.
WOOD: They giggle and tell each other secrets.
PETERSON: Those were the little seeds that I planted when you were here last time. And look at how much they've grown already. And those...
NORAH: Oh, look at that baby one.
WOOD: He's never going to be alone again.
PETERSON: Norah got me out of the loop, gave me something to live for. It's like the sun came out, you know?
LANTZ: For NPR News, I'm Erika Lantz.
SHAPIRO: That's from WBUR's Kind World podcast.
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