When I first began this Wednesday morning Good People Doing Good Things feature, I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it going. I feared I would run out of ‘Good People’ after only a few weeks, or that people would find it boring. Neither of those have come to pass. The only times I have struggled to find those good people were when my own mood was too dark to open my heart, and my readers have been very positive, some even looking forward to Wednesday mornings for this reason. Even the posts that I deemed only mediocre garnered enthusiasm. I think we are at a point, in the U.S. and abroad, that we need to see that there are good people doing good things for others, despite all the gloom and doom of the multiple issues threatening our planet, our nations and our lives. Moving on … today I am focusing, once again, on people who are not wealthy in terms of material possessions, but who are wealthy in the most important of ways, in their hearts and spirits.
Ever hear of a man named Rick Steves? I had not until this week, but apparently he is well-known among those who watch travel shows. According to Wikipedia, he is an American author and television personality focusing on European travel. He is the host of the American Public Television series Rick Steves’ Europe, has a public radio travel show called Travel with Rick Steves and has authored numerous travel guides. But that is not all Mr. Steves does …
As a teen backpacking through Europe, a journey he refers to as “Europe Through the Gutter,” he slept on trains, ferries, the pews of Greek churches, the concrete floors of Dutch construction projects, and in barns at the edge of unaffordable Swiss alpine resorts. Early in his life, he came to appreciate the value of a safe and comfortable place to sleep.
Steves worked his way up in the travel business, teaching classes, writing travel guides, consulting, organizing group tours, and a storefront business. Eventually, in 1991, came his first television show. For all his hard work, Steves was making a decent living, but he never lost sight of the important things in life.
In 2005, Steves constructed a 24-unit apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington, called Trinity Way and administrated by the local YWCA, to provide transitional housing for homeless mothers and their children. Members of the Edmonds Noontime Rotary Club help maintain the buildings and grounds, providing everything from furniture to flowers. The club also raised $30,000 to build a play structure for the children there.
“Imagine the joy of knowing that I could provide a simple two-bedroom apartment for a mom and her kids as she fought to get her life back on track.”
Steves also raises funds for the hunger advocacy group Bread for the World. A supporter of the Arts, he gave $1 million to the Edmonds Center for the Arts and Cascade Symphony Orchestra. Just this year, on January 20th, inauguration day, Steves donated $50,000 to the ACLU. This is a man who obviously cares about people more than profit.
Oh, and that 24-unit apartment complex? He recently donated it to the YMCA to continue the work he began.
This next story has multiple good people doing good things …
Two years ago, a man named Eugene Yoon, inspired by philanthropist talk show host Ellen Degeneres, had a strange feeling that he was being called to do a random act of kindness for a stranger.
Arthur Renowitzky was paralyzed when shot by a mugger in the parking lot of a San Francisco nightclub in 2007. Refusing to accept a doctor’s assessment that he would likely never walk or talk again, Renowitzky has gone on to become a an advocate for the disabled, founding the non profit Life Goes On Foundation, speaking out against gun violence, and visiting newly paralyzed patients to reassure them that, indeed, life does go on. “My message is simple: to keep pushing, life goes on and to never give up,” Renowitzky said.
In 2013, Renowitzky’s wheelchair was crushed by a hit-and-run driver. Enter yet another good person, Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame, who saw a news story about the incident and bought Mr. Renowitzky a brand new wheelchair!
Fate sometimes moves in strange ways to bring people together. It happened that one day Mr. Yoon was scrolling around Facebook and happened upon Mr. Renowitzky’s message. “I reached out to him blindly and told him, ‘I’d like for you to achieve your dream of walking again.’ So, I pitched him this outlandish idea of walking the state of California to help him walk again!” Yoon said.
As it happened, Mr. Renowitzky had hopes of someday being able to purchase a device that would enable him to walk again, an exoskeleton from ReWalk Robotics that was designed to help paraplegics walk again – the only problem was that it cost $80,000.
Determined to earn the money, Eugene Yoon got the idea to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in order to raise awareness and money to help Arthur. He spent months getting into shape for the more than 2,600-mile journey from California’s border with Mexico the Canadian border. Yoon began his journey in April 2015 and reached the Canadian border in October of that year. When he reached Acton, California, Mr. Renowitzky met up with him and provided some food and other supplies, saying, “There’s no way I can re-pay him. I’m forever grateful,”
When he was midway through the state of Washington, two weeks before the completion of his hike, Yoon received word that the monetary goal had been reached and Mr. Renowitzky would be getting his exoskeleton. “I can remember that moment like it was yesterday,” Yoon said. He recorded a video on the spot, screaming “We did it!” at the top of his lungs.
The story, of course, does not end here. Mr. Renowitzky continues his non-profit work through his Life Goes On Foundation. He also spends much of his time advocating for an end to gun violence, having spoken to more than 100,000 youth on the dangers of gun violence and how they must have the strength to be good citizens and find positive ways to overcome their life obstacles.
Mr. Yoon continues helping people, one person at a time. His latest venture is a man named Alberto who was struggling to make ends meet while taking care of his 24 family members. Yoon hired Alberto as a seamster to start a clothing line called Kin Lov Gra (stands for Kindness Love Gratitude), which manufactures the Inside-Out T-shirt. The company’s stated goal:
“Every INSIDE-OUT T-SHIRT and INSIDE-OUT DENIM will support a lower-income family whom I met on Skid Row. Every item sold will help fund nine months of food, rent, and necessities. During the nine months, the low-income family will also be given a fair-paying employment opportunity under KIN LOV GRA so they will be able to create a savings for themselves. Once the nine months expire, they will be able to sustain themselves out of poverty through the savings they will have created.”
And as for Ms. Perrette, she supports many charitable organizations, including animal rescue organizations, the American Red Cross, civil rights organizations, and LGBT rights organizations. She once said, “I have learned the best cure for depression is forgiveness & doing random good deeds & acts of kindness to others.”
It really helps to read about people like this … helps put the rest of our worries and troubles into perspective, I think. I had a third story for this post, but I have already surpassed my self-imposed limit of 1,200 words, so I shall save the third for next week (besides which it is after 1:00 a.m. as I write this, and I might like to sleep sometime soon 🙂 )