One of our good customers, JJ, is a crusty old fart with a brusque manner, but for months I've been greeting her warmly, giving her lots of personal attention and the occasional hug (which always seems to catch her off-guard), taking her special orders. And now when she comes into the store, she smiles and seems at ease.
Monday I returned from an errand to find her at the counter with Alan. I asked how she was, and she said, "I have a big problem here." I thought, "Uh-oh. What did we do?" Practically in tears, she told us that an old friend of hers had moved to Trinidad, Colorado, several years ago, and JJ hadn't heard from her in a long time. She had tried calling her friend, but the voicemail on her cell phone was full and the friend didn't have a landline. Letters to her had gone unanswered. JJ was afraid that the friend had died, and had no way of finding out.
Alan had been using Google to find the name but without success. I asked JJ whether she knew the friend's address, so that perhaps we could use an address finder to locate a neighbor, who might be able to tell her about her friend. She had the address, and I found the names and phone numbers of some neighbors. JJ said she'd call them.
The touching thing for me is that when JJ was at a loss about how to proceed, she came to us.