Good People Doing Good Things — A Few Good Men

Today, I have two good people stories for you.  Some days it’s so easy to be dragged down by the ongoing, never-ending news cycle that we forget some people are doing things to help others, whether human or critter or the environment.  The people in these stories will serve as a reminder that … not everyone is a self-serving greedy #$%&*#.

Nandu & Rajappan

This is the story of two good men.

A passion for photography has always possessed this young engineer from Kerala, India. Now he knows there was a purpose, after a photo he took while walking around his village ended up changing a man’s life and getting a shout-out from India’s prime minister.


Carrying around a rented camera searching for stories, Nandu Ks found nothing particularly interesting until one day he came to a bridge.

“I was always keen to capture images which had a story to tell, images which had life.  I noticed a man rowing a boat and collecting something from the river.”

The old man was N. S. Rajappan, and he’s been plucking plastic bottles from the river for years to earn a meager living. Paralyzed since the age of five when he was struck with polio, his daily routine has kept the waterways of Vembanad Lake clear of plastic—all from the seat of his small boat.

Without crutches, the 69-year-old would drag his legs a short way down the riverbank to the Meenachil River, after which he was free to wander the waters in search of bottles.


From the bridge that day, Nandu witnessed people throwing bottles into the river, while underneath a smiling Rajappan scooped them up.

Filling his boat with plastic only earns him about Rs 12 (17 cents), but it’s enough for a meal—and it’s satisfying to know he is helping the environment.

“Somebody should remove the waste from the water… I am doing what is possible for me.”


Nandu uploaded his story and photos to his Pro Media Facebook page, and people began retweeting it, including the UN Environment Program chief Erik Solheim, who suggested, “Let’s make this guy famous.”

The Indian Prime Minister, himself, Narendra Modi, then commended Rajappan’s efforts during his monthly radio address …

“I have seen news from Kerala which reminds us of our responsibilities. Imagine how highly he thinks! We must also take inspiration from him and contribute towards cleanliness as far as possible.”

Afterward, the story went completely viral, and inspired Indians to send gifts to the elder worker.

He’s been rewarded with a new motorboat, courtesy of a local businessman, and plans are in the works to build him a little home to replace the riverside shack that had been severely damaged in a storm.  Best of all, a Bangalore-based company making wheelchairs has given him a heavy-duty motorized wheelchair.  Said Nandu …

“With support coming in from thousands of people, both financially and morally, I could see his life changing. I always wondered what it felt like to follow your passion, but never knew its true feeling till the day I met Rajappan chettan (chettan=brother).”


And all of it happened because of one photograph.

“I went to him and showed him the photo I clicked. He smiled at me—and then I knew what it meant to be a photographer.”

The two have become good friends, and Nandu’s family invited him to dinner to show him the TV news segment featuring his good works.

“It takes a photographer to be at that moment and make that picture happen for the world to know the story.”

In this short video clip, only Indian is spoken, so you won’t likely understand the words, but you’ll feel the love.  Sometimes words aren’t even necessary.

Pilot Pete

Tucked into a suburban Chicago train station may appear to be an unassuming coffee shop. But what’s going on behind the scenes is much more than just your average cup of Joe.

For the seventh year in a row the shop’s owner Pilot Pete, a.k.a. Peter Thomas, has been the driving force behind ‘Coffee With a Purpose’, an annual community initiative that collects and distributes coats and other necessities to help the local homeless population brave the harsh Midwest winters.

Pete-1Thomas says the idea came to him when he was trying to find a way to give back to the community as well as get others involved. He admits he was initially unprepared for the positive avalanche of responses. In the weeks prior to Christmas in the drive’s first year, he and other volunteers took in 3,000 coats.

This year, for drive number seven, Thomas and crew helmed the Coffee With a Purpose command center from the back of a 26-foot moving truck. The humanitarian caravan made a total of six stops throughout greater Chicago. Pilot Pete’s brewed up 40 gallons of coffee for the occasion. The hot java was supplemented by donations from three other Elmhurst businesses eager to do their part. Baked goods came courtesy of Rough Edges Confectionery; the truck and a driver were provided Good Move Movers, and custom truck signage was the handiwork of Angel Fancy Design Studio.


At each stop, Thomas invited people up to “shop” for whatever they needed—free of charge. In addition to coats, there was a wide selection of blankets, socks, hats, gloves, scarves, and personal hygiene items to choose from, all collected, sorted, and hung by gung-ho community volunteers.

Thomas notes that with the added impact of COVID, there were more people in need than ever this time around.

“When we made this effort, all the shelters were on lockdown. No one was allowed in or out, that is, once you’re out, you can’t get back in, so there are more and more homeless people… This is a good year to be extra giving.”

But what Thomas and the community members who work alongside him are trying to achieve goes beyond merely handing out warm clothing and coffee. Forging a human connection with people who are so often invisible in society is an integral factor in their giving equation.

Thomas says making donations one-on-one makes it feel more genuine.

“You never know where someone has been or what someone’s been through before meeting them. With the homeless, we treat everyone the same or equal.”

According to Thomas’s proud mom, Joni Morgan, her son’s inclusive attitude is just who he is.

“Ever since he was a little he always would find the outsiders and pull them in to make them feel welcome.”

Thomas sees coffee as the perfect metaphor to inspire positive action.

“I love working with coffee as a tool of motivation to fuel and ignite people to soar beyond their expectations and to soar beyond society’s expectations. I’m fueling them and caffeinating them to do something better… something that will make them feel good about themselves so we can all grow together as one coffee family and fly beyond greatness.”

As of this writing, with plans for a new Elmhurst Metra station in the works, the future of Pilot Pete’s Coffee & Treats is a bit up in the air. Not surprisingly, the community he’s been rallying for years is now rallying behind him.

“Pilot Pete’s is more than a coffee shop. Peter Thomas gives back to our community in so many ways—from the annual coat drive for the homeless, school fundraisers, motivational quotes tucked into every cup sleeve, and more—his is the shining face every commuter needs to see. His ‘coffee with a purpose’ mentality is part of what makes Elmhurst a beautiful place,” reads the petition to keep Pete’s in place.

Since a tall, sweet, hot cup of coffee—laced with a heavy dollop of the milk of human kindness—is the kind of brew that belongs on everybody’s menu, here’s hoping Thomas will be able to continue serving up his special brand of hospitality for years to come.

36 thoughts on “Good People Doing Good Things — A Few Good Men

  1. How touching these stories are! To think that a paralyzed man drug himself to the river to do good! Sure makes me feel lazy!! Thanks so much for sharing these every week! ❤
    And Best cup of coffee to serve! The homeless people do have names and they are people too. Jason had made the remark in his blog once at how you will never know how close it could be you in being homeless, one bad decision, one huge setback due to things happening out of your control, we never know, we can't judge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My weekly ‘good people’ posts always make me feel a bit ashamed, that I could/should be doing more. Yes, Rajappan is one amazing dude!

      Jason is spot on … they have names and we would do well to learn them, giving them their identity, their dignity. I was homeless once for a very short time. Two of my three children and I lived in my car for a few days, and while it didn’t last long, it was the scariest time of my life.


  2. I love your post title and the photos. Thank you for finding the video of Nandu and Rajappan. Watching it with no sound reminded me of the old home movies my parents made in the 60s. Seeing Nandu carrying Rajappan and the smiles on their faces warmed my heart with gladness.

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    • Thanks so much, JoAnna! I so enjoyed doing the piece about Nandu and Rajappan … just watching that video, I could feel the love, the joy, and it brought a smile to my face. Ha ha … I remember those home movies! My dad took one of my trying 50 times to hit a golf ball (I never managed to be the son he had hoped for!).

      Liked by 3 people

      • I was the tomboy of three girls and often and thankful I wasn’t a boy. We had a movie of me pulling all the kleenex out of a box. My mom loved to run it backwards so I would put them all back. It’s interesting that your dad kept the camera rolling. I you all enjoyed that movie.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I was an only child, but very much a tomboy … preferred playing with matchbox cars to dollies, climbing trees was preferable to tea parties. I’m still that way, truth be told! Drove my mother crazy because she wanted a little girl she could dress up in frilly duds, but it pleased my dad, because he wanted a boy anyway! I laughed about your mom running the film backward to make it look like you were putting the tissues back!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this nice report, Jill! When you read this then you sometimes ask yourself the real question whether the wrong people are perhaps not involved in politics. Or some of our politicians should do something useful. 🙂 Michael

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    • I’ve had the exact same thought, Michael! What if we only allowed people like these guys to be members of Congress? My fear is that old saying by Sir John Dalberg-Acton, “”Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” Would the ‘good people’ remain good people, or would the power and wealth corrupt them?

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    • Two lovely young men, David, and “one fantastic very old one.” Old, like you and me, and Jill. And what are we doing to help the world, and all the living beings in it? Old men are people too! As are old women, lol!

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      • Hey now! Watch who you’re calling ‘old’! I’m younger than either one of you two fine gents! But all joking aside, you make a point, rg. What am I doing to make the world a better place? Not a damn thing. Sigh. My heart is in the right place, I think, but I’m not DOING anything. I’d like to say I’ll change that tomorrow, but … I just don’t have the energy to. Sigh.

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        • You are trying with your words, as am I. We don’t have much else left. Old? I am feeling very old these days. Gravity is now stronger than me, unexpected gravity pulls take me down easier than any tackler when I played football as a kid. Any slight overbalance and I am on the floor.
          But ideas, no one xcan take those away from me. My brain/mind/spirit is an idea factory. When it breaks down, I will die.

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          • So true … energy seems to have left me for greener pastures and words are about all I can manage. I do worry about you falling so much, though … you’re gonna end up breaking something, and I don’t mean Gail’s flower vase, but more like a hip or collarbone! Be careful, please.


                • I am going to cry. I spent 10 minutes telling you all about SiSi, only to hit a wrong button and have the whole thing disappear. I know you would have loved it. But I’ll never write it that well again…
                  They are getting warmer, but only one, our gentle Tecumseh, can share a close space with her. But even he has not washed her head yet, which he is prone to do when he is truly comfortable with another cat. The others can almost rub noses with her, but they are on tenterhooks all the time. Halvi, pronounced with a silent “l,” retreats with the slightest provocation. She is a wonderful new addition to our household, but she needs a cat to play with her. Gail and I are wearing too many war-wounds right now.

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                  • Oh, the reason I lost the original story, I wanted to add the song I have been singing in my head since me got her:
                    Oh, SiSi, come on and dance with me,
                    Won’t ya won’t ya won’t ya be my girl…

                    It sounded so right I never real zed I was actually mis-singing the 1966 hit by Tommy Roe, Sweet Pea. I prefer my version, but I am prejudiced.

                    Be sure to read the blurb under the video. For anyone who likes the backstory behind the song, well, this is more of a sidestory, but a cute one.

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                    • Awwww … methinks you have fallen head over heels for SiSi! Oh yeah … I remember that song! Haven’t heard it in ages! There wasn’t a blurb under the video, though.


                    • Aw. They made a movie, no idea what it was called, in which Roe was sitting in front of a bunch of teenage girls. A bopping 13 yesr-old was one of the last to arrive, and she took the seat right beside him. The camera loved her, as he sang into her eyes. I hope that is the video you got.
                      When the person put that video on YouTube the woman who was that girl saw it, and wrote to tell him/her it was her, and how she chanced to be in the movie. The woman did not say if she got paid. Probably not.

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                  • Awwwww … I would have loved to hear all about SiSi’s antics! You know what’s strange, speaking of how long it takes them to accept a new member of the household? I think I told you that our Boo had to spend a couple of days in the hospital a few months ago (gall bladder infection). When he came home, the other cats acted like he was a complete stranger and would have nothing to do with him! Even his best bud, Oliver, shied away from him and wouldn’t sleep with him as he always does, for several days. It was almost a week before things got back to normal. Heh heh … I understand about war wounds! Two of ours, Pandi and Tiger, have been warring for a couple of weeks now and one fight was so bad that Natasha was bitten deeply trying to break it up and had to have a round of antibiotics! For now, we are keeping them separated and … while it’s working, it’s not a long-term solution. I don’t know what is!


                    • Any idea what they are warring over? Both males, both females?
                      Yeah, if our cats have to stay overnight at the vet they get a good once over from the others when they get home. But generally that once over is enough.
                      SiSi is a foreigner until she ears her citizenship papers. I hope they come soon.

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                    • No idea at all … they’ve shared this household, along with the other 3, for years now, but all of a sudden there is bad blood. Both females. Fingers crossed for SiSi’s citizenship papers to arrive any day now! Give Gail a hug for me!


                    • Females can get very territorial, even when spayed. Diabola gets very territorial around me, especially if she thinks someone is trying to come between her and I. She bonded with me the instant I picked her up as a motherless kitten, and she has owned me ever since. Millicent is the first cat who she allowed to get near me, and only because Milli doesn’t love me, she only like me. SiSi usn’t sure yet who to love, so far pretty much equal, but if she chooses to live me over Gail, I think she will hear from Diabolo, who us now the resident queane.
                      Do Panda and Tiger have separate cat boxes? It could be as simple as that, putting the boxes in different places, and showing them which box to use. The other cats won’t matter, as long as they each are not allowed to use the others. The same could go for food bowls, or water bowls. Does one want dry cat food and the other wet, but you only serve one kind? Just thinking “inside the boxes” for now.


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