Ana Veciana-Suarez

Renew your belief in the kindness of strangers

Are you in desperate need of good news? Hankering for a story that will fill your heart with love for humankind? Hoping for a true-life anecdote to keep you smiling when the inevitable you-know-what hits the fan?

I am, and it’s not because of the summer doldrums. The older I get, the more I worry about the future; not necessarily mine, but my children’s and grandchildren’s. So I made an effort this past week to focus on good tidings, on uplifting news, and I found plenty of examples to renew my belief in the kindness of strangers and, as President Abraham Lincoln famously said, the better angels of our nature.

Surely you heard about Alabama college student Walter Carr, who walked almost 20 miles from his home to his new job as a mover after his car broke down. He began the trek at midnight, intent on being on time for his first gig. Along the way, two different cops gave him a lift. When the homeowner he was moving posted about Carr’s grit and gumption on Facebook, the post went viral. Thus alerted, the CEO of Bellhops drove from his home in Tennessee to Alabama to thank his new employee, buy him a cup of coffee, and give him the keys to his own 2014 Ford Escape.

Now doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? But wait, I’ve got more.

Faithful readers of this column know I’ve ranted before about the challenges of air travel, blaming rude passengers as well as penny-pinching airlines. But here’s a story that will make your heart soar. It may even get you to look at a chatty seatmate in a whole different light.

When the passenger next to her asked about her job, Kimber Bermudez, a Chicago teacher on a flight to Florida, answered that, while she loved the classroom, working at a low income school was challenging and heartbreaking. Too many of her students did without. The man asked for her work info, assuring her that his company often donated items to schools like hers.

Then the man behind her, who had overheard the conversation, handed her “a wad of cash” (which turned out to be $500). The man across the aisle also donated, as did the man in front. Bermudez now plans to buy books for her students to keep at home, along with backpacks and other school supplies.

See? Given half the chance, people will surprise you with their compassion and caring. Sometimes entire towns do too; towns like little Clarkston, Georgia. Clarkston occupies a mere 1.4 square miles in a state known for its peaches and its troubled relationship with race, but 40 nationalities speaking 60 languages now live in what the mayor likes to call the “Ellis Island of the South.”

The “Today” show featured Clarkston as an example of how a diverse group of people can live together — an inspiring story in these divisive times, when the debate about immigration has become rabidly partisan and frighteningly xenophobic.

Next, let me turn to a profession that has been much-maligned in the past few years: police work. Police brutality, fatal shootings of unarmed black men, corruption: All these have provided endless news fodder. As in any occupation, a few bad apples can taint the bushel — and the public’s perception.

So, in praise of those with a badge, I offer the tale of a police officer in Tukwila, Washington, who bought a new pair of shoes for a boy who did not have a pair that fit. The cop had found the child walking around in socks bloodied by a cut. From the department’s Facebook page: “He came back with not only a pair of shoes, but also with a bunch of popsicles (sic) because what isn’t better than a cold popsicle (sic) on a hot summer day?”

Oh, I feel so much better now. Don’t you?

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.
  Comments