I just read Mary Smich's uplifting column about a woman who lost her purse on the "L" and got her bag back with everything still in it. The first thing I thought about after reading it is: We really, really need stories like this right now.
We need stories that remind us that there are not only decent people in the world, but exceptionally good people. As far as I'm concerned, the more of these stories, the merrier.
Thanks to Mary and her column, I came up with the following idea: Let's all share a personal story of goodness. I'll go first. If you have one of your own, please, share it.
Maybe we can cause a goodness chain reaction. Imagine, goodness going viral. Wouldn't that be something?
About 20 years ago on a typically cold, gray November day in Chicago, I was driving south on the Outer Drive from my home in Rogers Park. I was on my way to work in Hyde Park. I had just past Oak Street Beach when, out of nowhere, I ran over some chunks of metal on the road.
Bingo. I flat out knew I had a flat tire. (Yes, I was/am one of those women who can't change a tire. Guilty as charged.)
With me cussing to myself behind the wheel, my car and I bumpily limped off the Outer Drive and pulled up in front of one of the steel and glass Mies Van der Rohe high-rise towers off of Lake Shore Drive.
I walked into the outer lobby of the building. It was about seven in the morning, and the night doorman, a middle-aged African-American gentleman, looking tired and warn, was just getting off work. I told him what happened.
Since these were pre-cellphone days, I asked him if I could use a phone to get some help. Instead, he went over to my car and bent down. He pointed out that I didn't have one flat tire. I had two! And, of course, one spare.
I could feel the wheels spinning in his head as he silently assessed the situation. He said he knew a place nearby that sold used tires for about $20. He said he would drive over there in his car and buy one for me.
I gave him twenty bucks and sure enough, less than a half an hour later, he came back with a new old tire. He took off the flats and put the spare and the new old tire on my car.
As a person of Jewish heritage, I have been known to obsess over the Holocaust. People ask, "How can such evil happen?" Usually, there's no answer.
But I like to turn it around and think of the extraordinary goodness of people during that time. I'm talking about the group known as the "Righteous Gentiles," the non-Jewish individuals who helped save Jewish lives back then, despite enormous risk--to themselves and their families.
Over 11,000 of these people, 5,000 of them Polish, are honored at Yad Vasham Museum in Jerusalem.
I don't honestly know if I could do it--risk everything? And do it, often times, for strangers? Could you?
Getting back to my tire story, I offered the doorman money for his services, but he refused to take a dime for himself. A few days later, I was able to track down his name, and I tried again. I sent him a check with a note of extreme gratitude. He never cashed the check, and I never heard from again.
But I think of him from time to time, especially now, when evil seems to lurk not just in the shadows but in broad daylight. He's a reminder for me, a talisman, that there is goodness in the world. If you look for it, you might find it, too, in a doorman, a teacher, a nurse, a cashier in Walmart, or maybe, just beneath the surface, in yourself.
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