— -- Norah Wood of Augusta, Georgia, is a 4-year-old with a heart of gold. Her best friend happens to be an 82-year-old man named Daniel Peterson, affectionately known as Mr. Dan -- and she refuses to let him be lonely, especially on Halloween.
The friendship began on Sept. 28 when Norah and her mother, Tara Wood, went to the grocery store to buy cupcakes for her fourth birthday.
The mother of 7 says Norah suddenly stood up from the cart she was sitting in and exclaimed, “Hi old person! It’s my birthday today!” Wood told ABC News.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to who she was speaking to. It was this older gentleman that didn’t look overly happy but when he realized she was speaking to him he smiled and said, ‘Well hello little lady! And how old are you today?’”
They exchanged small talk and parted ways before Norah asked her mom if she could take a picture with "Mr. Dan" for her birthday.
They searched the aisles for him and successfully took a birthday picture. “They hugged and they acted like they’ve known each other forever,” said Wood.
Peterson says the encounter was a pleasant surprise. "Suddenly this beautiful little girl just out of the blue decided out of all these senior citizens in the grocery store, that I was the one she needed to hug and lord, I mean, it showed me a kind of love that I have never seen," he said.
Wood posted about the encounter on Facebook together with the photos they took. That’s when a local reader contacted her to let her know about Peterson's story.
“She told me Mr. Dan’s wife passed away a couple months ago and she said she could see it in his face that our daughter made his day and I asked if we could get his contact information and she said he’d love that,” she said.
The following Friday, Norah and her mother visited Peterson’s house and took him out for lunch. “I framed one of the photos of the two of them and Norah took that to him and he loved it,” she said. “She curled up in his lap like she’d known him forever.”
Since then, the 4-year-old and 82-year-old have been meeting for playdates every week, including a visit to celebrate his 82nd birthday.
“I check in on him a couple times a week. She asks about him every day. It’s really amazing,” said Wood.
Peterson says he feels blessed that Norah is a part of his life. “She’s totally the love of my life today. I was the one that got the benefit from all of this because she just lit up my life,” he said. “I was having sort of a down period as days go sometimes and was feeling a little sorry for myself because my wife died in March and I’m still hurting from that. And there are good days and bad days. And that became a very good day.”
On Monday, Norah knocked on Peterson's door to show him her Minnie Mouse costume. "She's a doll," said Peterson.
Wood describes the friendship as “magnetic.” “Wednesdays are senior citizen days at the grocery store so there were lots of senior citizens that day but she just zeroed in on him,” she said.
“I don’t know if it was his wife Mary from up above that sent Norah or God, the universe, the stars aligning -- I don’t know how to explain it. I just know that we’re all better for it.”
Those who know Norah aren't surprised by her act of kindness. Her mother says she’s always been empathetic and thoughtful.
“Most 4-year-olds are self-centered and everything is about what’s going on with them and how it affects them. That’s natural. But she thinks about other people,” she said. “She’s got a special little spark of empathy in her that I didn’t put there.”
Wood says everyone should have a Norah in their lives. “People get so busy living their lives. It’s not necessarily anyone’s to blame but people in nursing homes, or even in their own homes, their family doesn’t call them or [they] rarely visit them for holidays and I hate that. I hate that people feel lonely. It’s just important that people know that they matter,” she said.