Monday, June 26, 2017

400,000 people applaud this young man's small kindness

With the divisive atmosphere in our country and our media's focus on bad news and sensationalism, human decency seems in short supply. In fact, bad behavior seems more common than ever. As headlines and 24-hour news channels broadcast more and more stories of worthy of a dystopian novel, I ask myself - is the escalation in bad behavior a matter of garbage in, garbage out?

Call me callous, but I limit my intake of news. I can't spend my life's energy fretting about other people's bad behavior. I'm on the lookout for good news, hoping to fill my mind with examples of goodness and decency so my heart will absorb the message and my actions will reflect that. Goodness in/ goodness out.

That's the purpose of this blog. It's my way of calling attention to kindness, a chance to spread some decency, share some small reminders that people who behave with respect for themselves and others still exist. I believe their stories should be broadcast far and wide. Their behaviors are the ones which can and should be emulated.

Take this story for example. At a busy Massachusetts shopping mall, an 83-year-old man hesitated at the top of an escalator. A few people walked around him and still the man stood in place. Several paces back, a woman named Paula witnessed a young man later identified as 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson approach the elderly man. "Do you need help, sir?" he asked. The man explained that he'd once been caught by an escalator and still had a phobia about them. Johnson offered an outstretched arm and said he'd ride with him to the bottom. The man accepted the offer and did just fine.

Paula captured the kindness on her cell phone and posted the act of decency to Facebook. The shot has gone viral, which surprised both Paula and Mr. Johnson.

Apparently I'm one of over 400,000 people who like hearing good news. Here's hoping each of those 400,000 people spread some kindness of their own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Teen raises funds to send Holocaust survivor to Israel for his bar mitzvah, finally

When Holocaust survivor, 89-year-old Henry Oster spoke at Viewpoint High School in Calabasas, California, 17-year-old Drew Principe was fascinated.  He spoke with the elderly Jewish man after the assembly and presented him with a gift - a bracelet inscribed with a Jewish prayer he himself had bought on a trip to Israel several years earlier. Oster was overwhelmed with the gift, and admitted that he had never been to Israel.

The two kept in touch. Principe learned that Oster was detained by the Nazis just a few weeks before his bar mitzvah and spent time in Auschwitz. After the camp was liberated in 1945, he tracked down one of his few remaining relatives, an uncle in California. At 17, he was adopted by that uncle and began a new life in America. He never did get his bar mitzvah.

The man's story bothered Principe, and he decided to act. He wrote a letter explaining his dream of sending Oster to Israel and sent it to family and friends. They in turn spread the word. Over $15,000 was raised to cover Oster's travel expenses.

Principe didn't stop there. He learned that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, had listed Oster as a victim of the Holocaust, not as a survivor. He contacted them and set the record straight.

When Oster travels to Israel this summer, Yad Vashem will conduct an official ceremony to change his status to that of a survivor. Plus, he will finally celebrate his bar mitzvah, attended by his last living relative in Israel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Truck covered with racial slurs pulls into auto body shop, workers jump into action

Auto body shops are typically busy, noisy places. Such was the case at Collision Masters in Buffalo NY, last week, when all of a sudden, the place went quiet. The business owner, Frank Todaro later said, "You could hear crickets." The abrupt silence was because a pickup had just pulled in, covered in racist hate graffiti. Air tools stopped, no one spoke. The staff was horrified by what they saw. The pickup's owner, Mr. King, obviously wanted the graffiti removed, and Todaro quickly put two workers on the job. Cleaning that much graffiti would likely take a full day.

That's when the rest of Collision Masters' staff chipped in. They all stopped their own work in order to help with the pickup. Inside of 30 minutes, the job was done. Mr. King had his pickup back, cleaned of hateful graffiti at no charge to him courtesy of Todaro and Collision Masters.

Word spread of the conscientious workers at Collision Masters. Because of their kindness, State Rep. Tim Kennedy bought the shop staff lunch, and Mayor Byron Brown stopped by with an official proclamation hailing their good deed. A social media report of the quick, free graffiti removal got thousands of 'likes,' 'loves,' and 'shares' on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kids fold 1,000 paper cranes to encourage a hospitalized classmate

Last fall, fourth-graders at Carondelet Catholic School in Minneapolis learned that a classmate was to be hospitalized. Owen Guertin had been diagnosed with an arterio-venous malformation, a tangled web of blood vessels in the brain. The same malformation had killed his cousin just a few months earlier.

While Owen prepped for surgery at Boston Childrens Hospital, his teddy bear came to school every day, dressed for school and sitting in Owen's chair. His classmates were comforted by the bear's presence, but they missed their friend.

One day, teacher Kristen Rafferty read to the class from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, the true story of a Japanese girl with leukemia who believes the Japanese legend - a person who folds one thousand paper cranes will be returned to health. At the end of the story, one of Owen's classmates raised her hand. She asked Ms. Rafferty if the class could fold cranes for Owen. Of course, she agreed.

The class used time during recess, lunch, morning prep, and even their own time at home to fold cranes out of paper in multiple colors and prints. It was all worthwhile when Owen returned to school after a successful 17-hour surgery to find his friends had decorated their classroom with a 'cranebow.'

Monday, June 12, 2017

12-year-old invents app to help people with disabilities find accessible businesses

Alexander Knoll may be 12-years-old, but his father says he has an old soul. A few years ago, Alex watched a man in a wheelchair struggle to open a store's front door. The man's situation bothered him and got him wondering - what if that man had been able to search ahead of time for a store that had better accessibility? Would he have taken his business elsewhere?

Like most inventors, Alex identified a need and is working to satisfy it. His idea was simple - create an app which acts as a clearinghouse for information needed by people with disabilities when they access their community. Availability of braille menus, ramps, automatic doors, accessible restrooms, wheelchair-friendly restaurant seating, etc. would all be found within the app, a one-stop site for disability-friendly businesses.

The idea has won awards sponsored by the Discovery Channel and 3M, and has garnered Alex invitations to speak at national and international tech symposiums. He and his Ability App have been featured on TV programs, including TD Jakes, NBC Nightly News, and Ellen Degeneres. Alex is raising money on a GoFundMe page to finish the app development and marketing, which should be helped along by Ellen's contribution of $25,000.

An idea filled with compassion from the heart of a 12-year-old. We adults have much to learn.