This week I am shining the light, once again, on ordinary people who are giving of themselves and their time to help others. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness, just something as simple as picking up a dropped object for an elderly person, or helping someone across the street, can make someone’s day a little brighter.
Never Too Old For A Bike Ride …
Elderly people sometimes don’t get out and about as much as they might like. Visual and mobility limitations may keep them from enjoying a walk in the park, or even just a trip to the grocery store. Imagine the feelings of loneliness, or isolation that these people experience. And young people are often busy with their own lives, wrapped up in the drama of school, relationships, sports, etc. But in Scotland, there is one young man who is helping bridge the gap between young and old, and helping seniors have the opportunity to get out just a bit more.
Meet Fraser Johnston, a med student at Falkirk University who has started a movement to help get elderly people out on … bike rides!
“A lot of people who are stuck in care homes or stuck in their own homes, the only time they ever get taken out is with their family or through activities at the home. But it’s normally from the home to a car to a bus to the next location. For some of them it’s such a strange thing when you say, come out on the bike because they think they’re going to do the pedaling. But when they find out it’s a young or old volunteer taking them out, they jump at the chance to get on the bike. Everyone has some time in their lives that they could give back to the older generation, and offer them opportunities like this they wouldn’t get otherwise.”
What started as one young man doing a kindness soon became more than one young man could handle last month after BBC Three made a video for their Amazing Humans series. The video went viral and … well, long story short, what started as a one-man show has now expanded. Fraser learned of a volunteer project, Cycling Without Age, that was started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012, and decided to start a branch of the organization in Scotland. To date, he has about 30 volunteers and has two of the bicycles – actually more of a cross between a large tricycle and a rickshaw — called Trishaws.
“It’s like a victorian carriage, minus the horse, which you don’t need when you’ve got a strong pair of legs behind you. I have noticed a difference in Mary, her eyes look completely different, they’re back to what they were years ago”. – Chris Ogilvie
It may seem like a small act of kindness to us, but to the people who he is taking for rides, it must seem like a very large thing. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that back in 2015, Fraser was awarded the sportscotland Volunteer of the Year award.
A Teacher’s Dying Wish …
Kay Wistrand is a language arts teacher at Tomball Junior High School in Tomball, Texas. Earlier this year, Ms. Wistrand was diagnosed with a lethal form of spinal cancer and was given a maximum of 2-3 years to live. When she announced her diagnosis to her class, they were heartbroken, for every body loved Ms. Wistrand. Four of her students got together and were trying to think of something to do for Ms. Wistrand, when suddenly one remembered hearing her say that her dream was to someday see the California Redwoods and dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean.
The students got the idea of setting up a GoFundMe account to help Ms. Wistrand realize her dream. Here is what Mickey Nolen, one of the four students wrote on the page:
“Kay Wistrand is one of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. She is an AMAZING English Language Arts teacher. She teaches at Tomball Junior High School. And is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. But, she has an uncommon tumor in her back that doctors cannot remove. They have given her 2-5 years give or take. The tumor has spread and she now has a small tumor in her lungs. We don’t know if the lung tumor can be removed, if not her time left on this beautiful earth will drop dramatically. The doctors also said that she can no longer go through chemotherapy. And she told us she feels absolutely awesome without it. In class, she told us about her Bucket List, she mentioned a trip to California, specifically the Redwood Forest. She also wishes to step foot in the Pacific Ocean, because she never has before. Out of everything on the list, some friends and I thought that we could make this happen. Mrs. Wistrand has loved all of her students so much for many years. We just want to return the favor for all of the hard work she has put in to teach the youth of our community. Please find it in your heart to help out our amazing teacher, she deserves it more than anyone I know. Together we can Wistrand everything.”
The students, hoping to raise $7,500, have now raised $10,811! Isn’t it inspiring, after all the negative stories we hear about young people and drugs, alcohol, and selfishness to see young people like this whose hearts are in the right place, who care about others enough to make an effort to help?
The Homeless Mayor …
Mayor Ben McAdams, of Salt Lake City, Utah, lived on the streets and in a homeless shelter. For three days and two nights. His goal? To be better able to provide better services for the homeless of Salt Lake City. Now, you might say he isn’t qualified for the Good People post, but I think he is. When we look at the politicians we see every day in the news, can you name one single other who would actually spend time living on the street in order to better understand the needs of the homeless?
On the first night, he slept on the street. He wanted to know why someone might choose the sidewalk over the shelter. “I didn’t feel safe. I absolutely did not feel safe.” McAdams described it as a “very chaotic environment” and got about four hours of sleep through it all. Still, some of the people he talked to said it’s better to be outside and get some space from the drug abuse and gang violence that takes place in the shelter.
On the second night, he stayed in The Road Home. McAdams got in line for a bed in the afternoon, but was turned away. He came back again in the evening and was able to snag a mattress. He was drenched from the rain by the time he got indoors but was too late to get a blanket. “At least it was warmer inside,” McAdams said. Once inside the shelter McAdams witnessed the blatant use of drugs, including his bunkmate injecting drugs into his arm, and the smell of what he assumed was smoke from drugs “all night long”. He also witnessed a fight between two men in which a man was dragged off of his bunk and hit his head on the concrete floor.
During his three days experiencing life as a homeless man, McAdams said his time was consumed by solving two pressing needs: Where am I going to sleep? And where am I going to get food? “You have to plan your day around that,” he said, realizing that leaves little energy left to search for jobs or housing.
I give two thumbs up to Mayor McAdams for caring enough to make the sacrifice, for truly wanting to understand the problems faced by the homeless, rather than sitting in his ivory tower making decisions without understanding the issues and the people involved.
These stories should serve as a reminder that, no matter who we are, how little we may think we have to offer, there is always something we can do for others, and the smallest acts of kindness can mean the world to someone in need.