Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not-so-Random Acts of Kindness

The news was particularly dark this week it seemed to me.  I opened up the newspaper one day during the week to a headline about a 13-year old boy who shot his grandparents in cold blood in one of those zillion little towns that populate Pennsylvania.  From what I can tell based on what has come out right now, there is no real motive other than he is just one of those rare exceptions to my rule of "No Bad Kids".  He is a Bad Kid.  Monsters do walk among us.  The scary thing, as this now shattered family is finding out, sometimes you have to wrestle with the realization that you gave birth to one.  Right below it was the article about Malala Yousufzai, the now 14-year old Pakistani girl who spoke up about wanting to go to school when she was just 11.  She became a national symbol and apparently a national target.  She was shot in the head by Taliban extremists while waiting to go home from school.   If she lives, they have vowed to finish the job.  She'll never be safe unless she leaves, and all she wanted to do was get an education.  I was thinking about the courage it must have taken Rosa Parks to do what she did, and this little girl surpassed even that at the age of 11.  Two children died in a house fire here.  Someone shot at the Obama campaign headquarters in Denver (sadly proving my point that the ugliness of the race has gone way too far).  But of course, the big headline was Jerry Sandusky, still in absolute denial, getting what will amount to a life sentence in prison.  I have no doubt that it will be hotly debated:   it's too little, it's too much...  One thing no one can really debate, it is completely tragic.  If you opened up the paper, there was an article about a man who died after a roach eating contest.  Wow.  Both tragic and absurd.  And disgusting.

Headlines like these make one wonder if maybe the Mayans knew that the world would be better off without us right about now and decided we should be wiped out right before the holidays this year.  Of course, I'm not one to think that things are worse "these days" and the "good old days" were actually good.  I am a student of World War II, afterall, and am all too aware that the man who was responsible for sending six million people to their death for no other reason than their religion and/or sexual orientation during that time was actually born and nutured in the 19th century.  Then of course there is a long history of horrors throughout time.  The bottom line is that horrible things have been perpetrated upon humans by other humans since we crawled out of the primordial ooze.  It is downright depressing.   To combat that to a certain extent, one of the local papers, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette runs a column called Random Acts of Kindness.  The gist is that 'Burghers send in stories about strangers who did something kind that they observed or were the recipients of.  Maybe it is a bit corny, but when the front page is full of dark news, it is nice to be reminded that most of us are still primarily good people trying to do the right thing and sometimes actually touch someone else in a way that is profound.  I think I needed to remind myself currently not to give up in the face of darker news; therefore, this is my own version of that column.  I know most of the people in these examples, and it is hardly inclusive - it is a very small sampling - but we have been the recipients of many acts of kindness in the last few years.  We probably survived the many trials we have endured because of the support we received.  But, I think that is true of all of us. We all rely on little kindnesses here and there, maybe without even realizing how they sustain us.

To remind myself not to give up on the human race after the onslaught of bad news during the week, I recalled my husband's lifelong best friend hitching up a U-Haul to his truck and driving with Greg non-stop to bring the furry part of our family and a load full of stuff from Texas to Pittsburgh.  He put a lot of sweat equity into helping Greg get the house in Round Rock ready to sell as well.  He didn't have to do any of that.  Sure, friends support friends, but he went well above and beyond.  His family, who supported his being away for so long and so much, deserve a shout out as well.  I was also very touched by my brother-in-law's girlfriend who worked tirelessly to help with our garage sale fundraiser for the charity I was involved with, AFED.  She probably put in more hours than any of us, myself included, arranging for donations from her daughter's Girl Scout Troop, helping us sort and price things, working the actual sale and then taking left overs for resale.

Then there were both of our Realtors who went above and beyond.  Shoot, our Realtor on this end picked this house for us sight unseen.  Not many people would have been willing to step up and take on that responsibility.  Then she arranged to have people check in on it for the couple of months, during the holidays nonetheless, that it was vacant.

Of course, there were all our friends who put up with us during a lot of difficult years.  After Kelsey died, all the people who provided meals, sent cards or books about grieving and maintaining faith, or just listened to us when we needed it.  Lots of my friends gave me gifts when I left - things meant to remind me of the good things about where I was leaving and things meant to help me get settled or enjoy the trip here.  Too many to recount here.

Once I got here, I got lots of help and support too.  As I've written about before, my Lovely Philly Friend and her then boyfriend (now husband) drove across the state multiple times to show me around and keep me company.  And of course my family who made me feel like I was truly one of them, even though I'm not related by blood.  I remember the locksmith who dropped everything to come help me get into the house after I locked myself out.  He came back the next day to re-key the house and didn't charge me a trip charge, so he essentially came out for free once.   That was a nice act by a relative stranger.  And it wasn't the only one.  My neighbors have been awesome - even Mr. Mike helped me get Greg's Father's Day gift tucked away when I was struggling to handle a big heavy box drug around the side of the house.

These are just a few of the kindnesses we have been the recipients of over the years.  Just a very small tip of a very large iceberg to give you just a few examples.  Have I done enough to pay it forward?  Almost certainly not.   All the more reason to be in awe of the kindness we have received.

I bet you have stories like mine.  Incidents where people in your life made you realize that there is still good in the world.  Even if it seems sometimes like there is an equal amount of bad.  So, maybe, in the end analysis, the world shouldn't give up on us humans just yet.

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