I read what was supposed to be a feel-good story this morning about an 82-year-old Walmart worker who received more than $100,000 after a Good Samaritan raised money so the man could finally retire.
Yet, after reading the story at Faithpot.com, I was left wondering whether the kind gentleman actually did a good thing on behalf of the worker.
According to the story, Rory McCarty saw Butch Marion working at a cash register at Walmart. In fact, he took a video of Butch working because he was so impressed with his enthusiasm and energy for a man of his age. Then, Rory shared the video online and created a GoFundMe account to help raise enough money for Butch to retire.
“The Lord just prompted me to get my video out and I did and I started videotaping him,” Rory explained. “If it wasn’t for Him, it won’t have pricked my heart to start this.”
On the GoFundMe page, Rory elaborated even further.
“I was astounded seeing this little older man still grinding and working 8- to 9-hour shifts,” he wrote. “I wanted to help this Navy veteran to live the remainder of his years traveling to see his kids in Florida. I wanted to get him off his feet for 8 hours at a time and do the things he would love to do that he may not be able to for financial reasons.”
While I think Rory’s effort is certainly admirable for wanting to help an older gentleman, I do wonder if the action plays into a misguided idea that older people shouldn’t be working.
Even Rory admits he was astonished to not only see an older man still working, but that he was amazed Butch was working with such enthusiasm and energy for his age. For me, that was a key phrase because I sensed Butch loved his job.
People who are working outside of what they consider their purpose to be don’t generally exhibit a lot of enthusiasm or energy. Passionless workers are evident in droves at every business in America. Even Rory admitted he had a hard time finding good help for his own extermination business, especially people with the work ethic Butch exhibited.
Perhaps, Butch loved showing up at Walmart to work. Perhaps, he loved being around people and, more importantly, serving them with a smile. Perhaps, working gave Butch energy as well as a sense of purpose. Perhaps, he loved the socialization that came with the job and seeing familiar faces of customers and co-workers gave him great joy. Perhaps, Butch was applying his natural talents and skills toward helping others to have a better day even during a routine shopping trip.
In the Faithpot story, Butch said he was pleased by the gesture. With the money raised for him, Butch said he will be able to pay off his pending bills, travel down south to meet his daughters, and also help others in need.
To me, that suggests Butch wasn’t in financial distress because he didn’t have debt and he would give away some of the money to help others. To me, that indicated Butch was working for pleasure, not out of necessity.
I know I love visiting my daughters, but it is very difficult to disrupt the daily routines of their families for an extended period — even if I had the financial means to spend a lot of time with them.
“I would like to thank everybody around the world that gave me this,” Butch said. “I’m like a bird out of a cage now.”
If Butch truly felt he was in a cage and had to work out of financial necessity, that’s one thing. But, to observe an older person still enthusiastically working and make an effort to nudge him or her away from enjoyable work is an unfortunate act of age discrimination, regardless of the motive.
Too many people who stop working lose heart when they lose their sense of purpose. Instinctively, most people are compelled to want to make a difference with their lives, whether it is running a business or operating a cash register. They want to know their lives matter. That feeling does not diminish as people get older. In fact, it often increases.
To deny people the joy of working because we think they are “too old” is a very cruel gesture indeed. Personally, I would much rather be working behind a cash register and serving people than I would sitting in front of a television being lonely and depressed.
How do you react when you see older people still working? Do you feel sorry for them or does it inspire you to know that as long as your energy holds out, there is still a place of importance for you in this world?
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.