Last Friday afternoon, after a beautiful lunch and annual new year catch up with a friend, I was rushing down Elizabeth St towards the Myer Centre car park in Brisbane City.
I was late to get home to my partner Mark who had dinner underway, family were visiting and I knew I was going to hit peak hour traffic.
On my way, I hurried past one of the littlest old ladies I’ve ever come across. She was like a little bird, and she was slow and struggling with her bags. I noticed a sore on her leg that the bag kept hitting and figured it would be hurting her.
As I quickly moved past her grabbing my car keys out of my bag I thought ‘hold on, what is she doing out on her own? Someone could steal her bag easily or will knock her over if they don’t see her.’ She was so small she would be easily missed if you were tall.
So I turned around and went back to ask her if she had someone with her in town and to ask where she was heading so I could carry her bags and walk with her there.
She said she wanted to go to in the food court for dinner. She told me not to worry and to leave her as she didn’t want to be a bother, but having a mother who worked in aged care for 20 years, I knew she was way too frail to leave on her own.
She seemed hesitant to let me help her so I reassured her and said ‘it’s ok, I can understand you might not want me to carry your bags, but it’s on my way so it’s ok.’
So we chatted all the way on the slow walk to the food court. I found out she lived on her own and she spent Christmas Day in bed unwell, with no-one visiting her.
No meals on wheels, no family. Nothing.
She said no-one knows she lives on her own.
Over the last few years she’s suffered a hit and run accident crushing her arm. She said she wasn’t followed up when she was sent home from the hospital. She has had her bag stolen 3 times and is in pain from the wound on her leg. Her apartment building where she rents had just been sold and she’s looking into her living arrangements to move.
So, after much discussion over a Big Mac and fries, we managed to exchange details and I found out her name was Dot*. She then agreed for me to call the Department of Aging to check on her welfare.
I like to think people stop and care to check on people who are frail and look like they’re alone. After hearing the stories from my mum growing up, you can never assume people aren’t forgotten or haven’t fallen through the cracks of the system.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to coach a number of doctors and executives in the Department of Ageing and I know how hard they work to ensure vulnerable people in our community are not overlooked, but the fact is these things still happen.
It takes nothing to stop and find out if they’re ok, but what I have learned is that some don’t ask because they don’t know what to say or do.
So I wonder, how many of your customers or team members are like Dot? Are you expecting that they will just ask for help if they need it?
Often times they’re struggling on their own, not wanting to be a bother to anyone or feel like they’re not doing well. Inside they’re actually frustrated or stressed and do need your help.
We have systems and processes in place, sure. But systems don’t have empathy nor do they connect us at a human level.
As the Australian Chief of Defence David Hurley says, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”
Jane Anderson is a communications expert, speaker and the author of 4 books including “EXPERT to INFLUENCER: 12 Key Skills to Attract New Clients, Increase Sales and Leverage your Personal Brand to Become an Industry Leader.” With over 20 years experience helping people step into their personal power, she is obsessed about creating human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.