Good Neighbor

This sign appeared recently on the telephone pole at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Third Street, on my walking route to work.  At first I didn’t notice it, but when I read it I thought about what a nice, neighborly thing it was for a dental office to give up one day of paid work in order to offer a free filling, a tooth extraction, or a cleaning to someone who just couldn’t afford dental care otherwise.  And the people offering this free benefit were serious about letting people know about their effort to give back to the community — Kimberly Parkway, where the dental office is located, is miles to the east of the German Village location of this particular sign.  I imagine that similar signs could be found at many locations in our city.

In the hurly-burly of our lives in modern America, we sometimes tend to forget, or take for granted, the nice things that people do for each other.  We really shouldn’t.  There are still a lot of nice people in the world who are willing to help others and donate some of their time in doing so.

Life Lessons On A Cold And Snowy Night

About 50 years ago, on a bitterly cold and snowy night in Akron, Ohio, I learned two valuable lessons.

Grandma and Grandpa Neal had taken UJ and me to a University of Akron basketball game. When we walked back to the car after the game we saw that it had snowed, and Grandpa’s gigantic Oldsmobile 98 was half-buried under the blowing and drifting snow. He tried to clear away the snow, but it was obvious from the sound of spinning tires that he was stuck — and there was no way that two elderly people and two little boys were going to shove that 3,000-pound tank to a clear spot.

Fortunately, before we knew it our car was surrounded by college students and other men who had gone to the game. They lowered their shoulders and bent to the task, rocking the car as Grandpa slowly accelerated. At one point a student next to the passenger side rapped at the window, looked in at Grandma, and said: “Is it warm in there?” It made her laugh, and it was a line she recalled with a smile for the rest of her life. After a few more rocks we were over the hump and free. Grandpa got out, thanked the men, they wished us a cheery good night, and we drove off.

The first lesson — essential if you want to live in the Midwest — is how to free a car that is stuck in the snow. You don’t gun the engine and floor it; you’ll just dig yourself deeper and never get out. You need to work with your helpers, patiently going back and forth by incremental degrees, to rock the car out of the rut. And when your car is free, you need to be careful not to coat the Good Samaritans who helped you with a spray of snow and slush as you pull away.

The second lesson is that there are good people out there who help complete strangers who need help, no strings attached. Now, when I see someone who needs a hand — a neighbor whose car can’t make it up their icy driveway, or a Mom whose station wagon got stuck when taking her kids sledding — I think of those nice men who assisted us so long ago and always stop and do what I can to help them out. The Good Samaritans are still out there, and we should all strive to be one of them.

Recognizing And Celebrating A Good Deed

We hear so much about people behaving like jackasses.  How about a little story that shows that human beings — even important, powerful, wealthy ones — can still show decency, and kindness?

The setting was Washington, D.C.  A harried Mom was having a nightmarish travel day and thought that she had missed the last flight to Atlanta, where she was to pick up her daughter from summer camp.  She was the next name on the standby list and the jetway doors were ready to close when she miraculously got a seat.  The Good Samaritan was Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta.  He gave up his cabin seat and sat in a jump seat in the cockpit so the Mom could make it home.  The grateful Mom, Jessie Frank, wrote about the story on her Facebook page; Delta confirmed it but hasn’t tried to capitalize on the good publicity.

Sure, I know — the cynics may wonder why the Delta flight was overbooked in the first place, and will point out that the CEO, unlike other passengers, had the means to use a cockpit seat that otherwise would be unavailable.  So what?  The fact is the man could have played the accustomed CEO/hyper-important person/Master of the Universe role, ignored the woman’s predicament, and kept his seat.  The world would have been none the wiser.  The fact that he did what he did says something good about him as a person, and the fact that Delta hasn’t tried to publicize the story says something good about Delta as a company.

If we want to encourage decent behavior we should recognize it.  So here’s to Mr. Richard Anderson and the folks at Delta who helped out a Mom in need.  A small gesture, perhaps, but one that brought a smile to my face.