Earlier this evening, my girls were watching the movie Elf … you know, the one with Ed Asner as the real Santa Clause, Bob Newhart as Papa Elf, and Will Ferrell in the title role. I glanced up to catch a minute of it every so often … I’ve only seen it a few dozen times, after all. When I glanced up toward the end, I was struck by a woman saying that Santa’s sleigh couldn’t fly for there wasn’t enough ‘Christmas spirit’ here on earth. And then, as I began working on my ‘good people’ post, I found myself thinking about that. I think these people I am writing about tonight have what I would define as ‘Yearlong spirit’.
Grandma goes postal!
Meet Laura Landerman-Garber, a grandmother and full-time clinical psychologist living in Hollis, New Hampshire. Laura has a ‘spare time’ project. It started on Thanksgiving Day, sixteen years ago, when Laura told her family that nobody was getting a bite to eat until they had each written cards to military members. She called it the “ticket to turkey.” With the threat of turkey on the line, of course, they all pitched in.
Through the years, the project gained momentum, with other families pitching in to help. Five years ago, her daughter’s friend was deployed in the Navy to the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Landerman-Garber pledged she would send cards to all the soldiers on what she then called a “boat.” Her project really expanded when she found that the USS Theodore Roosevelt was actually an aircraft carrier with more than 5,000 crew members!
Ms. Landerman-Garber has a ‘can-do’ attitude, and she wasn’t about to break this promise! So, she began to call it a “challenge” and enlisted the help of churches, synagogues, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and even politicians! The project kept growing … and growing … and this year, Ms. Landerman-Garber will be sending out over 100,000 cards to military personnel in all branches of the service! Heck, it taxes me to mail one or two cards! Presidential candidates Mark Sanford, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have even contributed handwritten messages on cards!
“The thought of someone being away at a time when in our culture, in American culture particularly, the holidays are all about gathering together… for me, I wanted to be able to reach out and just maybe give a little bit of a bridge so that person who is far away feels a little tiny bit closer to home. I just love the idea that whether you’re a presidential candidate — and those people have a lot of experience in our country — or you’re a 3-year-old preschooler that you can send holiday cheer to someone that’s away from home and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing.”
It may be a small thing she does, but I bet that if you asked a service member stationed far from home, he or she would tell you that to them, it’s a pretty big thing.
Cleaning up after everyone else …
Afroz Shah is a lawyer in Mumbai. In 2015, he moved to a community in Mumbai called Versova Beach. He had played there as a child and was upset to see how much it had changed. The sand was no longer visible because it was covered by a layer of garbage more than five feet thick — most of it plastic waste.
“The whole beach was like a carpet of plastic. It repulsed me.”
Mr. Shah is not, however, one of those people who shakes his head and soon forgets about it. In October 2015, Shah began picking up trash from the beach every Sunday morning. At first, it was just him and a neighbor, and then he began recruiting others to join in. Word spread and with help from social media, more volunteers got involved.The unsightly mess Shah had stumbled upon is part of a global environmental crisis. More than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year — the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped every minute. It’s predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
Mr. Shah has dedicated every weekend for the past 209 weeks to cleaning up the beach. He inspired as many as 200,000 volunteers to pitch in, and it took three years, but by October 2018, Versova Beach was once again beautiful!It has been called the world’s biggest beach cleanup. But, Mr. Shah didn’t stop there. He turned his sights elsewhere and began spending every weekend cleaning another beach as well as a stretch of the Mithi River and other regions of India.
Mr. Shah has my appreciation, and I definitely think he is one heck of a ‘good people’! And folks … we gotta do better on this plastic thing, alright?
A good guy named Guy …His name is Guy Bryant, but they call him … Mister B. Who is Mr. B? Well, he’s a good people, of course! Mr. Bryant has worked for 32 years as a community coordinator at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. His job focuses on a specific age group: 18-21 year old kids that have ‘aged out’ of foster care, yet are in no way prepared to face the world on their own.
“It’s a big population. There’s definitely a need for the services because what happens is when a youth gets 18 years old, a lot of times they feel like, ‘I can do this.’ Most of the kids, they can’t admit who they are. Their identity is lost somewhere between the home they’ve lived in and the other 10 foster homes they might have lived in.”
In 2007, one of the young men in Bryant’s caseload asked him a question: “Will you be my father? Will you take me?” After some thought, Bryant decided to take the chance. It worked out well. It worked out so well, in fact, that Bryant also decided to foster the young man’s friend, as well as the friend’s brother! But wait …
Before Bryant knew it, he had nine young men in his home and rented the floor above his apartment to have additional space. Bryant initially had some trepidation about being a foster parent, especially as a single dad.
“Some of my fears were this: People say, ‘Why is this man doing this?’ People always think you have ulterior motives, not understanding who I am.”
Bryant does more than just provide these young people with a roof over their heads … he gives of himself. He gives the most important thing any adult can give to a young person … he spends time with them. He talks to them, does things with them, he plans fishing expeditions a few times a year and sometimes cooks meals with the young men, developing bonds over time.
“The difficult thing about building trust is their past interactions with adults. If I can get you to engage in conversation with me about how you’re feeling and what’s going on, then that right there, my job is done. They constantly need to be reinforced that ‘I am here. I am going to do what I say.’ My kids will tell you whatever I say, I’m going to do for you. I always do it because I don’t want you to look at me like one of those adults who let you down.”
To date, Mr. Bryant has taken in more than 50 young men, and he says he isn’t finished yet …
“The Mr. Bryant approach is I love you regardless. You could become a brain surgeon or you could be a bathroom cleaner — it doesn’t matter. Once you come into my home and you’ve been with me and you’ve been here, you’re my kid for life. That’s my approach. You’ll always have a bed to come to, a shower to take — you’ll always be able to come home. This is home.”
Folks … I love all of my ‘good people’, but this one brought a lump to my throat. What an awesome man, don’t you think?
And last, but not least …
Who says good people have to be humans?
The Pet and Wildlife Rescue in Chatham Kent, Ontario, found a dog curled up on the side of the road. When they investigated further, they found the dog was taking care of … four tiny baby kittens!
The shelter plans to keep them together until they can locate owners or find them homes.
That’s all I’ve got time for tonight, my friends, but remember … let’s all try to be ‘good people’. You don’t have to take in 50 foster kids, or spend three years cleaning a beach … there are opportunities all around you. Just do something nice for somebody, and you’ll see how great it feels to be a ‘good people’!