One young woman was in a Walmart parking lot when she spotted a disabled veteran. She could have ignored him and carried on with her day, but she chose not to. Having watched him struggle for too long she jumped out of her car and approached him.
In 2015 Morgan Wheeler was a 21-year-old living and working in Fayetteville, West Virginia. But in June that year she found herself at the center of a social media storm. She had done something pretty remarkable, and the internet couldn’t get enough of it.
The story begins one day when Wheeler headed to Walmart to pick up a few things. But as she got in her car to leave she realized that she was blocked in, not by a car, but by a wheelchair. So she sat and waited for the way to be clear.
The wheelchair was occupied by an elderly man, who appeared to be missing part of his right leg. Wheeler then spotted that the man was struggling a little, as he tried to maneuver his wheelchair through the parking lot towards the grocery store.
Aware that he was holding Wheeler’s car up, the man apologetically waved in her direction and tried to keep going. He was clearly having a rough time, so Wheeler decided to do something truly compassionate in order to help the poor fellow.
Instead of driving off, she pulled back into the parking spot. Then, she got out of her car and approached the gentleman who was having difficulties. The young woman introduced herself, before offering to help him, whom she believed to be in his sixties or seventies.
To start with, the disabled man was hesitant to accept help. He told Wheeler that he was coping just fine. However, Wheeler wasn’t convinced by his stubbornness and so she persisted. And before long, she was pushing his wheelchair into Walmart and assisting him with his groceries.
The two of them got chatting and learned a bit about each other. Wheeler talked about her family, while the man in the wheelchair explained how he had recently become a widower. Not only that, but it also transpired that he was a war veteran.
Then, they got down to the important business of grocery shopping. Although Wheeler never found out the name of the man she was helping, she knew that she wanted to stick with him and make sure that he got all his shopping done.
So, he handed her a short list of things that he needed to pick up. On it were only four things: peanut butter, soup, bananas and bread. Wheeler noticed that these items seemed to be missing something – specifically, dairy products – so, she asked the man why.
His response was truly heartbreaking. He hadn’t put anything perishable on his shopping list because he thought they might go bad before he got home. That’s when Wheeler realized quite how far this retired military man had come to do his shopping.
It turned out that the chair-bound man had wheeled himself all the way from his house to Highway 119. Then, once he got there, he had managed to hitch a ride with a truck driver. The man’s story moved Wheeler so much that she knew she had to do more to help him.
Wheeler went and got a gallon of milk and put it straight into the veteran’s shopping cart. Then, he started to cry. He couldn’t believe the kindness that she was showing him, telling her that she was going above and beyond for him.
But to Wheeler it was just a way of saying thank you to a man who had risked his life for her freedom. Before parting ways, Wheeler chose to pay for all of the disabled veteran’s groceries, despite his objections. Then, she had another idea for how she could help.
Wheeler called a taxi to take the man home. She gave the driver enough cash to cover the cost (as well as to help him take the groceries inside), and thanked the veteran once again for his service to the country, before sending him off on his way. The elderly man said, “God bless you,” just before the cab pulled away.
Overwhelmed by the emotion of the encounter, Wheeler went back to her car and broke down in tears. Perhaps that was when she realised she wanted to share her experience with her Facebook friends, in the hope of inspiring other people to show kindness to veterans.
What started as a post just describing to her friends what had happened, wound up gaining a significant amoung of attention online. Wheeler’s story was shared hundreds of thousands of times in a short space of time, and she was delighted by the online community’s reaction.
“I’m so glad the post has touched so many people,” Wheeler told <em>Today</em> in June 2015, “There are far too many people like that gentleman who need help, and I want to encourage everyone to help others. Trust me, it will be a very humbling experience,” she continued.
People online have praised Wheeler for giving her time, money and respect to the widowed veteran. “You have such a big heart and I wish others felt and cared like you do,” wrote one person. Another described Wheeler’s act of kindness as “precious.”
While Wheeler’s Facebook post concluded by berating others for simply strolling by the anonymous man in the wheelchair that day, her actions showed that it’s not difficult to show a veteran that you care and that you are grateful. Let’s hope that her story encourages others to do the same.