Minnesota woman Tina Mack had the pleasure of mixing a social visit with some TLC in early 2018 when something rudely interrupted her serenity. A blind man had wandered into the Minneapolis beauty parlor where the 53-year-old was enjoying a hair treatment. Mack saw the man take a seat in the salon’s waiting area. The man seemed to be minding his own business, but when a security guard saw him he started to yell.
Financial services executive Mack lives in Oakdale, a suburb of St. Paul that lies 17 miles east of Minneapolis in the Twin Cities area. One Friday in February 2018, the doting aunt had made a special trip across the Mississippi in order to visit her niece in the north-east of Minneapolis. And that visit would leave Mack in no doubt as to exactly what type of person lives in that part of town.
Mack’s niece was enrolled at the Aveda Institute on the city’s Central Avenue in the Marcy-Holmes district. The international beauty school brand trains students in hair, beauty and wellness. Mack was no doubt looking forward to receiving a hair revamp from her close relative and a chance to catch up.
However, Mack was shortly to learn something new that made her reassess a lot of things. As her niece was getting busy with the foil and colorant, something unusual caught Mack’s eye. She looked on as a blind man walked into the salon and sat down in the waiting area. While this in itself wasn’t out of the ordinary, what happened next would leave Mack amazed.
As the visually impaired man waited, one of the salon’s security guards approached him, calling loudly as he did so. The Aveda security guy certainly seemed to have crossed paths with the blind man before. An incredulous Mack watched as the guard shouted “Jerry” repeatedly at the man before grabbing him by the arm and escorting him off the premises.
It was at this point that Mack thought to capture the incident on film. So she interrupted her dye session and cranked up her camera. Her resultant footage was later loaded on to social media where it swiftly went viral. It turned out that Mack was not the only one who found what happened next to be remarkable. The film follows the security guy as he lead the blind man out of the salon and over the road. As he does so, the sightless man taps his cane along the ground, trying to make sense of his surroundings.
But the show is not over once the pair reach the other side of Central Avenue. The film continues with the security operative waiting with the man on the snow-covered corner until the lights change. When it is safe to do so, the duo cross to the other side, where a branch of speciality grocery store Lunds & Byerlys is located.
The Aveda security guy sees the man safely into the family owned food store before turning back across the intersection and back in to the salon. The whole trip probably took no longer than five minutes. But, while this may have been a tiny portion of the guard’s working day, Mack learned it made a massive and important difference to the blind man’s.
The visually impaired individual in Mack’s footage was Minneapolis local Jerry Quarnstrom and, sadly, he does not have his troubles to seek. Not only is the 50-something man sightless, but he is also hard of hearing. On top of these sensory deprivations, Quarnstrom has difficulty walking. This has meant that the use of a seeing-eye dog is unsuitable in his case. However, that is where his local community offers its own guidance.
As Mack was to learn, Quarnstrom lived with his wife, Alison, just around the corner from the Aveda Institute. And each day the blind man would visit the beauty school – not for any treatment or tuition, but for some literal direction. Indeed, an Aveda staffer would escort Quarnstrom over the road, safely past the busy city traffic, and deposit him at the entrance of Lunds & Byerlys on daily basis. And while the simple gesture left Mack impressed, the salon staff maintained that they were just doing their bit.
Aveda Institute employee Patty Liepold spoke to CBS-affiliated local TV channel WCCO about the every-day practice in February 2018. “It’s kind of like an inherited thing,” she said. “Anyone that comes works here knows that you may have to walk Jerry across the street. It’s just part of it. It’s the right thing to do.”
And Mack discovered that it wasn’t just the people at Aveda who were keen on doing the right thing. Apparently once Quarnstrom has finished his daily grocery shopping at Lunds & Byerlys, employees of the local retail chain escort him to his next destination. In fact, all of the local blind guy’s neighbors look out for him and guide him from block to block.
The security operative who took time out to assist Quarnstrom on the day of Mack’s visit was Mark Jara. And the guard was filmed as part of the WCCO report, claiming to cherish the time he gets to spend with his neighbor. Indeed, Jara suggested that it was the best part of his day. “It’s just really hard for Jerry… I feel like he needs a little help,” he told the cameras.
Upon learning that a caring community spirit was alive and kicking in north-east Minneapolis, Mack was completely delighted. “Everybody just pitches in and does their share,” she told WCCO. “I thought it was touching,” she admitted.
In fact, Mack was so moved by the Marcy-Holmes community’s compassion for Quarnstrom that she decided to share her footage on Facebook. Underneath the video update on February 23, Mack wrote, “There ARE still good people in the world. Let’s always remember the quiet, kind people are out there, doing good things.”
Before long, Mack’s video went viral on the social media site, attracting almost a million views. In a matter of weeks the Facebook post had racked up 36,000 reactions, some 10,000 shares and 1,500-plus comments. Mack was not alone in being cheered by the care shown to Quarnstrom, as the gushing contributions under the footage attest.
A fair few Facebook users pointed out that, despite the world being full of fear and division, there is still a great deal of humanity out there. After stumbling across Mack’s video, one impressed viewer wrote, “Restores faith in your fellow man. It’s too bad we don’t hear more of these stories. I’m sure there’s lots of good things happening.”
Meanwhile, another inspired social media fan added, “There are many, many beautiful people who see a need and fulfill it. No applause, no recognition, no need because they do it because that is who they are! Lovely story.”
However, while swathes of the internet were swept up in singing the praises of Quarnstrom’s neighbors, no-one had heard from the man himself. That was until WCCO tracked him down at his home for a televised interview. And the grateful Minneapolis man took the opportunity to say a public “thank you.”
Addressing his many helpers in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, Quarnstrom said, “Just thank you guys for helping me. I do need your help, so thank you so much.” Meanwhile, his wife, Alison, who is also blind, added, “That’s huge, that means a lot for people to help us… It’s Minnesota nice!”