He leaned against the counter and tried to catch his breath. His eyes turned glossy and tears trickled down his wrinkled cheeks.
“I can’t believe this. I just can’t,” he cried as he rocked back and forth. It was hard to imagine that someone had intentionally brought out these reactions from an old man.
Carlos Valdez had a serious love of pizza. He would even go as far as to proudly announce he loved pineapple on it.
The dad had fine-tuned his rotation down to a delicious science. These special dinners also offered precious family time. However, one day, their delivery came with something unexpected.
They had decided to order from a different Papa John’s location. But when the car pulled up and the delivery man stepped out, Carlos had to look twice.
It was an elderly man; someone that could have easily been a grandpa. His frail arms held the large bag as he hobbled across the yard.
The man flashed a bright smile and said, “Hello, are you looking for some pizza?”
The family took their order, but Carlos hung around to chat with the very friendly octogenarian named Derlin Newey. Even after they said goodbye, and for days after, something nagged at Carlos. It was a single, important question.
Why was someone that old still working – and as a delivery man?
He thought about his own father and how he happily watched movies or sat in the park. It broke his heart. The encounter would have faded into a worrying memory, but when they ordered their next pizza, the old man showed up again.
He flashed the same warm smile and used the same endearing catchphrase, “Hello, are you looking for some pizza?”
After another long chat on the porch, Carlos decided to investigate. Between concerned neighbors, community members, and pizza patrons, what he uncovered was very distressing. It would also send the father into immediate action.
It seems, despite retirement, the 89-year-old had been forced to go back to work because his social security wasn’t enough to cover basic living expenses.
The aged deliveryman was so loved by everyone he encountered, that patrons would ask from him by name to bring their food. But the Valdez family wasn’t going to let this continue.
Carlos imagined his own father being forced to work. They did everything they could to make sure he would enjoy the last years of his life. Had Derlin’s children forgotten him?
Were they ungrateful and absent? Maybe there was a deeper tragedy? Carlos pulled out his phone. He had a secret weapon.
He and his wife had gained quite a few TikTok followers.
They had already uploaded several videos of their pizza conversations and porch-chats with Derlin, but now was a time for real, meaningful action. He looked into the camera and issued a special Venmo wallet challenge to everyone watching.
Carlos wanted everyone to donate whatever they could, so they could give the old man the biggest tip of his life and make things a little easier.
The Valdez’s figured it would be a few hundred dollars, but the end result was over $12,000! They collected the money (as well as a few extra gifts) and drove to Mr. Newey’s home.
Derlin opened the door with a surprised smile and welcome the family is if they were his own.
As they sat in the kitchen, and his wife streamed, Carlos told him about his TikTok community and how they all loved Derlin. It was an adorable exchange because the elder had no idea what the app was … but he did understand what came next.
The first thing was a t-shirt with a cartoon version of Derlin and his special pizza catchphrase.
Next was an envelope filled with the $12,000 tip. His wrinkled hands started to shake and the tears came hard. “How do I ever say thank you! I don’t know what to say,” he bawled. Carlos also discovered something new.
It wasn’t a mere part-time job that Derlin had taken on.
The old man worked upwards of 30 hours a week just to make ends meet. He also lived alone. The emotional conflict was heart-wrenching and difficult to watch. As the group sat around the kitchen table, Carlos realized two things…
On one hand, he understood that the job let Derlin be around people and stave off loneliness.
But he also deserved to enjoy retirement. The second thing? Even though the community had banded together and elevated the deliveryman into a local hero, there was one more thing Carlos could do.
The Valdez family agreed that once a week they would get together and spend dinner together.
These pizza lovers adopted each other as a new family. Derlin, still with tears in his eyes, said, “There’s hope.” The two men gave each other a long hug, and Carlos could see a new spark of life in the old man’s eyes.