The police were called to the home of an elderly couple in Rome who had been heard in hysterics. When the officers arrived, they found a 94-year-old man and his 89-year-old wife in tears, overcome by loneliness and despair over all the world's terrible news.
The Roman officers stayed with them and asked about their long lives together. The couple spoke of their isolation, especially in the summer months, when their neighbours go away. The officers asked if they might look inside the kitchen pantry and then, upon finding some simple ingredients, offered to cook the couple a meal of pasta, butter and cheese.
"Nothing special," the police department wrote in Italian on its Facebook page. "But with a precious ingredient: Their humanity."
Loneliness and anguish is not a crime, and the cops could have seen there was no incident and left. But they instead chose to kept the couple company.
The department shared the couple's story a month ago along with two photos of the husband and wife, married 70 years, eating their pasta with an officer cleaning up at the sink in the background.
The post was written with notably poetic flair. It describes Jole and Michele alone at home with only the TV as company. And all the bad news from it was just too much for them to bear.
"Sometimes the loneliness melts into tears. Sometimes it's like a summer storm. It comes suddenly and overtakes one," the post read. "Jole and Michele they love each other. But when the loneliness is a burden on the heart, it may happen that they lose hope."
Loneliness among senior citizens is a serious physical and emotional health issue, and it impacts not just those living by themselves. A 2012 study by University of California San Francisco found that 43 per cent of elderly people felt lonely, but only 18 per cent of them lived alone.
The Roman police department's post was shared close to 24,000 times, with several thousand commenting on the heartrending yet beautiful tale. Many commended the officers for their thoughtfulness and others wondered how they might visit or write to the couple to help allay their loneliness.
"Thank you," one woman simply wrote. "You are true heroes."