Good People Doing Good Things — National Park Volunteers

As a result of the Trump government shutdown, some 800,000+ federal employees are either furloughed from their jobs, else are asked to continue working without immediate compensation and with only the hope of back pay at some elusive date in the future.  Among those who are on furlough are the employees of the national parks around the nation.Trash-overflowing.jpgWith nobody to empty trash, clean restrooms, move debris from public areas, the parks were, after nearly three weeks untended, falling into a state of disrepair.  But last week, some good people took notice.  Let me introduce you to just a few …

Mike Skelton is the owner of Yellowstone Wonders, a company that offers tours of Yellowstone National Park.  Last week, with the holidays in the rearview mirror, Mike noticed a serious buildup of trash in the park.yellowstone-4

“We all live here. When it gets down to it, it is our park and it belongs to all of us in this country.”

Yellowstone-3.jpgAnd with that, he gathered a few other local residents and got to work.  They brushed snow off entrances, cleaned toilets, replaced toilet paper and switched out garbage bags, and they’ll likely do it again most weekends, if the shutdown continues.  The first day, Saturday, Mr. Skelton was joined by about 15 volunteers, but the next day, Sunday, there were 40!  Some volunteers brought supplies from home or bought them along the way.yellowstone-2In addition to individuals lending a hand, dozens of small businesses located in proximity to Yellowstone National Park have all chipped in thousands of dollars to keep the park open and tidy during the winter tourist season … they even offer free pizza to the volunteers!

gsm-signIn Tennessee, Marc Newland and his 10-year-old daughter Erica have spent their days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking the mountain trails with trash bags in hand so they can pick up litter along the way. gsm-3The Newlands have always been avid hikers, but when Marc told his daughter about how the shutdown would affect the mountain park, she suggested that they take it upon themselves to keep the trails tidy.

“Erica says that she would like to challenge other hikers to take one day off from getting in miles and impressive vista pics and instead, give back by grabbing a trash bag, heading to the park and collecting some litter!! These mountains give so much to so many people. Imagine if only a fraction of those people decided to give back to the mountains.”


Ever hear of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA)?  It is a Maryland-based organization that regularly organizes community service cleaning efforts across the country, and presently they are mobilizing to clean up in Joshua Tree National Park, Everglades National Park, the National Mall, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.


Joshua Tree National Park – California

At least 70 members of the group emptied overflowing trash cans, picked up piles of litter and swept the streets over the weekend.  Young.  Muslim.  Men.  The ones who so many call terrorists … are picking up trash in order to keep our national parks clean.  Think about that one for a minute, if you will.

These are but a few of the groups and individuals who are stepping up to the plate during the Trump shutdown to help keep things running smoothly.  Unfortunately, due to a weekend incident where park visitors damaged trees while driving off-road, Joshua Tree National Park is now closed to visitors.  Had park rangers been on the job, the incident likely would not have happened.

Nonetheless, there are thousands of people out there volunteering to pick up the slack left by the Trump shutdown, and I, for one, am grateful to them.  The parks belong to us all, and we should offer kudos to these fine volunteers for helping to take care of the parks so that we can continue to enjoy them.  Thank you ALL!!!

Good People Doing Good Things — Acts of Kindness

A friend and reader, Ellen, pointed me in the direction of a new source of ‘good news’ stories, and one of the first things I saw last evening when I visited the site in search of ‘good people’, was this headline:

The Most Inspiring Everyday People of 2018 Showered the World With Kindness: Our Top 10 Favorites

I visited and found some awesome stories of everyday people doing small kindnesses for others.  Two of the ten turned out to be stories I had previously included in my ‘good people’ posts, but I want to share a few of the others with you today.

The first one is just a small thing, really, but I found it touching.  It happened at LAX airport last February.  A young mom, pregnant and with a toddler in tow, was trying to board her flight, but the toddler apparently had other ideas and was having a meltdown, running from the mother, crying uncontrollably.  Been there, done that, and I could feel that mother’s frustration as I read this story.

Finally, the young mother simply sat down on the floor of the airport, placed her hands over her face and joined her son in having a good cry.  As if by some unseen, unheard signal, suddenly 6 or 7 women came to the pair and worked their magic.  One sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider to the young boy, another peeled an orange for mother and son, another pulled a toy from her bag, while yet another offered the mom a bottle of water and words of comfort.  Within a few short minutes, both mother and son were calm and able to board their flight.  It is said that the women did not speak of what was being done or what needed to be done, and yet acted as a team, as if it were a well-coordinated effort.  According to one of the women …

“After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world. I will never forget that moment.” 

Solidarity.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Kindness.

Adarsh Shrivastava was on a train that was traveling through Uttar Pradesh in northern India in July when he noticed something strange about his fellow passengers. His train cabin was filled with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 – and almost all of them were visibly distressed. Some of the youngsters were even crying.

Sensing that something was afoot, Shrivastava pulled out his phone, created a new Twitter account, and sent several messages detailing the situation to railway and law enforcement authorities, saying that he suspected the girls to be victims of human trafficking.trafficking.jpgUpon writing out his cabin and train number, the Good Samaritan only had to wait thirty minutes before the Ministry of Railways Twitter account responded to the message. A few stops later, several police officers boarded the train and arrested two men who had been transporting the girls for a human trafficking scheme.

“Their parents have been informed and the men have been taken into custody,” a statement from the Railway Protection Force said.

Many social media users are calling Shrivastava a hero and asking the Prime Minister of India to honor him for his actions – however, Shrivastava has simply responded by saying: “Thanks, but as a citizen of India, it’s our responsibility to help people.”

Humility.  Courage.  Responsibility.  Empathy.

It was on a routine flight to Jamaica that an elderly woman suddenly went into cardiac arrest.  Luckily there was a nurse onboard, but she was unable to relieve the woman’s breathing distress.  However, there were two very inventive anesthesiologists aboard the flight, Matthew Stevenson and John Flanagan.  After determining that the plane was not equipped with a hand-operated, manual resuscitator, the two men leapt into action.  Dr. Stevenson performed CPR on the woman while Dr. Flanagan concocted a makeshift ventilator using tubing and an airbag from one of the plane’s emergency masks and connecting the device to the onboard oxygen tank.oxygen deviceThe two doctors worked to keep oxygen flowing to the woman’s lungs with the makeshift device for 45 minutes, until the plane was able to make an emergency landing in Fort Lauderdale.  Passengers pitched in, too, holding the doctors steady during the bumpy landing.  When medics rushed onto the plane to take over, the passengers gave a cheering round of applause to the two doctors.docsIn this, the day of frivolous lawsuits, many doctors will not step into such a situation, for their malpractice carriers caution them against touching a person in distress without a liability waiver.  These two men put a human being first.

Caring.  Humanity.  Courage.  Responsibility.

Randy HeissRandy Heiss had been out on a walk with his dog in Patagonia, Arizona when he saw a deflated red balloon trapped in some shrubs. More peculiarly, there was a little note attached to the string. The note, which was written in Spanish, was a Christmas list that was addressed to Santa from a little girl named Dayami. The sweet youngster simply said that she wanted some paints and new clothes for Christmas.balloon-noteHeiss was moved by the letter, not just because of its innocence, but also because he used to send letters to Santa the very same way – so he became dedicated to fulfilling the child’s Christmas wish.  But … how to find the child?

“It really touched my heart to find it and I said well how in the heck am I going to be able to figure out how to make contact with this little girl and make her wishes come true.”

He took to social media, hoping to find someone who could put him in contact with the family. With Christmas looming ever closer, Heiss eventually approached a Mexican radio station for help, and within one hour of them broadcasting his story, he was connected with Dayami’s family in Nogales, Sonora.

Delighted for an opportunity to bring some holiday magic to the family, Heiss ditched work to go shopping for Dayami’s gifts at Walmart and bring them down to Nogales.Dayami.pngDayami’s family was extremely grateful for the gesture, and Heiss and his wife were careful about telling the kids that the gifts were from Santa.  Heiss gained even more joy from his gesture, though …

“We lost our son nine years ago. So, we don’t have grandchildren in our future and so really getting to share Christmas with kids was something that’s been missing in our lives.”

Heiss has stayed in touch with Dayami’s parents through social media, and they are quickly becoming extensions of each other’s families – all thanks to his act of Christmas compassion.

Generosity.  Sharing.  Kindness. Love.

I end this post with a quote from English writer John Bunyan:

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Let’s all try to be ‘good people’ this year, shall we?  Remember, it isn’t the size of what you do, but the spirit with which you do it.

Good People Doing Good Things — Choose Love (and others)

t-shirt-2Perhaps my favourite Christmas gift this year was from my daughter to Miss Goose and I together.  When we first opened it, we were a bit puzzled, for there was a white t-shirt with the words “Choose Love” on it in black lettering, and a piece of paper that appeared to be an invoice for:

Hot Food x2 $8.00
Sleeping Bag x1 $26.00
Waterproof Tent x1 $26.00
Snug Pack x1 $10.00
Arrival Bundle x1 $30.00
Total   $100.00

My first reaction was, “You bought us a tent?  You want us to move out?”  But as she explained, as I understood what my wonderful daughter had done, tears came.  She donated this money in mine and Natasha’s names, to be spent on the above items for a refugee in need.  My daughter has a heart of pure gold.

So this evening, as I pondered my ‘good people’ post, I thought to do a bit of research into ‘Choose Love’.  From their website …

Choose Love. It’s a simple, but powerful message.

At a time when the world faces many challenges; when rhetoric of hate and division has found itself centre stage; we believe sharing this simple message has never been more vital.

We all have a choice. To be motivated by fear and animosity, to build walls and turn our backs on the world. Or to nurture the hopeful; to recognise our common future. To chooselove. The world can feel broken, but everywhere these cracks are letting in light.

We’re under no illusions. We know we face some huge challenges. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as charity, and as a community, it’s that we can all play a part in creating the world we want to see. And choosing love seems like a pretty good place to start.

Choose Love, the world’s first store where you can buy real gifts for refugees, contains practical items like tents, nappies and sleeping bags. But instead of taking them home, each purchase buys a similar item for someone who truly needs it.

In 2017, this new model of charitable giving raised nearly £1 million, it got the message out to over 200 million people, and it engaged celebrities, influencers and the public with a really positive message.

We believe funds should go straight to where they are needed most. So we make sure 100% of donations from the store go straight to supporting front line services.

Last year, the sale of life jackets from the Choose Love store raised £38,594, which enabled Refugee Rescue to assist 1,399 people braving the treacherous sea crossing from Turkey.

But Choose Love is only one part of the picture, for they are in partnership with another organization, Help Refugees, that goes even further.  Help Refugees is ranked one of the most efficient charities helping refugees with a myriad of things.  A bit about them …

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Help Refugees started as nothing more than a hashtag in August 2015. A group of friends wanted to raise $1,500 and fill a van full of donations to take down to Calais. Within a week, we had raised $86,000. We were soon receiving 7,000 items every day.

Fast forward three years, and we have helped over 722,500 people, managed over 25,000 volunteers, and we support more 80 projects across Europe and the Middle East. We have established a fieldwork first, networked approach to giving aid, establishing local networks and working with local partners to deliver projects.

Boosted by the support of high-profile musicians, filmmakers and actors who joined our ‘Choose Love’ campaign, we believe that together with our partners, volunteers, fundraisers, and supporters we have pioneered a new movement in humanitarian response – ordinary people to help other ordinary people in need in the most direct of ways.

We help where the need is greatest. Flexible and fast in our response to the genuine needs of refugees, we fill gaps and act where big NGOs and governments don’t.

94% of your donations go directly towards supporting refugees across Europe and the Middle East.

– We are among the most efficient refugee charities in Europe
– We’ve had thousands of volunteers
– We’re funded by people like you
– We don’t have any highly paid executives
– We provide vital aid to people fleeing war, persecution and poverty

Help refugees impact reportI checked out both Help Refugees and Choose Love, both are legitimate and rely almost exclusively on volunteers and donations.  So today, I honour many good people whose names I do not know, but whose accomplishments deserve kudos.  The 25,000+ volunteers, those who came up with the ideas for these two charities, and the thousands of people who have helped, either by giving donations or buying items for refugees.  And one more good person I would like to honour today … daughter Chris for having such a wonderful heart and for caring about people.

You can learn more about these two organizations from their websites, Choose Love and Help Refugees.

Filosofa Is Sorry …

I fear that I must apologize this morning, for I know that you all look forward to the Wednesday morning ‘Good People’ posts, and I come to you today with empty hands.  It isn’t the fault of the good people, for they are out there, but only my own fault, for I was simply … unable last night.  I promise to have a good people post next Wednesday, perhaps even sooner.

But my hands are not completely empty, for I have a humorous Christmas poem with a delightful surprise ending, so I hope you’ll take the time to read all the way to the last line.

A Politically Correct Christmas
~ Anonymous

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”,
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole,
were alleged by the union, to stifle the soul.

confused santaFour reindeer had vanished without much propriety,
released to the wilds, by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear,
that Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his beautiful sleigh,
because the ruts were deemed dangerous by the EPA,
And millions of people were calling the Cops,
when they heard sled noises upon their roof tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe, had his workers quite frightened,
and his fur trimmed red suit was called “unenlightened”.

To show you the strangeness of today’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose.
He went to Geraldo, in front of the Nation,
demanding millions in over-due workers compensation.

confused santa-4So…half of the reindeer were gone, and his wife
who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
joined a self help group, packed and left in a whiz,
demanding from now on that her title was Ms.

And as for gifts…why, he’d never had the notion
that making a choice could cause such commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur…
Which meant nothing for him or nothing for her.
Nothing to aim, Nothing to shoot,
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls and nothing for just boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific,
Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacifistic.

No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish upon the truth.
And fairy tales…while not yet forbidden,
were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden,
for they raised the hackles of those psychological,
who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football…someone might get hurt,
besides – playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist and should be passe.
and Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

confused santa-3So Santa just stood there, disheveled and perplexed,
he just couldn’t figure out what to do next?
He tried to be merry he tried to be gay,
but you must have to admit he was having a very bad day.
His sack was quite empty, it was flat on the ground,
nothing fully acceptable was anywhere to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might,
give to us all, without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy – with no indecision,
each group of people in every religion.
Every race, every hue,
everyone, everywhere…even you!
So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth…

“May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on Earth.”

Peace on earth

Good People Doing Good Things — A Few Surprises!

On Sunday evening, around 10:00, I took a break from the post I was writing (Jolly Monday) to go roll a couple of packs of smokes. When I stepped away from the computer, my blog had around 250 views for the day, about the norm.  When I returned some 20 minutes later, I had nearly 500 views!  No way … must be a spammer, right?  But no … a bit of digging and I found the cause.  One of my former ‘good people’ had just been awarded the CNN Hero of the Year award! hero-of-the-year.pngRemember Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong from back in June?

In a nutshell, what Dr. Pun-Chong did was built a shelter in his home of Lima, Peru, to provide free meals, shelter and support for sick children and their families who have come from all over Peru for treatment at the various hospitals in Lima.  As part of his award, Dr. Pun-Chong will receive $100,000 which he says he will use to build an additional shelter.  Watch …

I am so thrilled to see Dr. Pun-Chong receive this well-deserved award!

And now, how about a few of those everyday good people doing good things on a slightly smaller scale than Dr. Pun-Chong …

Kevin Booth is a homeless man in Sumner, Washington.  One day last week, Kevin went to the Sumner foodbank in search of bread that is often left in a box outside for the homeless people in the city.  When he arrived and opened the box, he found a brown paper bag.  The bag was filled, but not with bread … it was filled with cash!  $17,000 in cash, to be precise.Kevin-BoothNow, you can imagine what a find $17,000 would be to a homeless person … he could probably rent a room and eat for a couple of years with that amount of money.  But Kevin Booth didn’t walk away with the money.  He waited until the volunteer staff arrived for work a bit later and handed the bag of money over to them, saying he knew that money would benefit more people than just himself.

To thank Booth for his honestly, the food bank is giving him part of the money in gift cards as a reward.  The Sumner police department also presented Booth with a citizen’s citation.  My hat is off to this man who knows and does the right thing.

An unnamed juvenile in Roeland Park, Kansas, was caught at the local Wal-Mart trying to steal a pair of boots.  Police were called and along came Officers Suffield and Snepp.  Upon talking to the youth, the officers determined that he was a displaced juvenile within the State of Kansas Justice system and was trying to steal the boots, so he could get a job. Suffield-SneppAnd so, Officer Suffield and Officer Snepp gave him a bit of encouragement, some advice to get a job, stay in school, and stay out of trouble.  And then they bought him the boots.  A small thing, sure, but it may end up being the difference between a life of crime or becoming a doctor, lawyer or even a senator … oh wait, that would be a life of crime.  It may very well have made the difference between his life or death … we’ll never know.  You never know what one small act of kindness might lead to, do you?  Thumbs up to Officers Suffield and Snepp … thank you!

And last, but not least, how about we change it up just a little, for I found something so heartwarming that I just have to share it with you.  After all, who said good people have to be ‘human’ people … they can be equine people, can’t they?  Meet Peyo …

Good People Doing Good Things — Greta Thunberg

After the Parkland school shooting last February, we saw many of our young people step up to the plate and become … well, the adults in the room, quite honestly.  They declared they had enough of adults being so stupidly in love with their guns that they were willing to sacrifice the very lives of these young people, and in nearly the blink of an eye, these young people became activists for meaningful gun regulations.

On Monday night, our dear friend Colette sent me an email with a suggestion that I look into another young activist fighting for a cause that we should all be fighting for.  Her name is Greta Thunberg, she is 15-years-old and lives in Sweden.  Greta is, as the Parkland kids were, being the adult in the room.  Her cause?  Climate change.

“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

It takes a lot of courage for a teenage girl to make such a statement, and she is spot on!Greta-2Greta is the daughter of Svante Thunberg, an actor, and Malena Ernman, a well-known opera singer, both people of conscience, as you will see.  Greta developed her special interest in climate change when she was nine years old and in the third grade.  As she tells it …

“They were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.”

Nine years old, and she had better sense than many world leaders today.  She began researching climate change and has stayed on the topic for six years. She has stopped eating meat and buying anything that is not absolutely necessary. In 2015, she stopped flying on airplanes, and a year later, her mother followed suit, giving up an international performing career. The family has installed solar batteries and has started growing their own vegetables on an allotment outside the city.Greta ThunbergAll of that would be enough, in my book, to dub her a “good person”, but it is barely even the tip of the iceberg.  Fast forward to mid-August when Greta Thunberg went on strike.  That’s right … she went on strike, refusing to attend school until Sweden’s Parliamentary election on September 9th.  Every day, Greta sat quietly on the cobblestones outside parliament in central Stockholm, handing out leaflets that declare: “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.”

When people tell her she should be at school, she points to the textbooks in her satchel …

“I have my books here. But also, I am thinking: what am I missing? What am I going to learn in school? Facts don’t matter anymore, politicians aren’t listening to the scientists, so why should I learn?”Greta-3As word of Greta’s protest spread, so did the protest itself.  At last count, more than 20,000 students around the world have now joined her. The school strikes have spread to at least 270 towns and cities in countries across the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan. Greta is amazed by the rapid spread of school strikes for climate around the world: “It proves you are never too small to make a difference.”

Greta has since returned to school four days a week, but on Fridays she pursues that which is closest to her heart these days, her activism, her attempt to wake us all up, to help us save ourselves.  Every Friday, she and others sit outside Parliament to raise awareness amongst legislators and passersby.  I may have forgotten to mention that Greta is autistic and has both ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Asperger’s Syndrome, all of which makes it very difficult for her to speak to other people, yet look at what she has done in spite of her obstacles!

This Monday was the opening of COP24, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change being held for twelve days in Katowice, Poland.  Greta Thunberg held a press conference.  The sound quality is poor on the video, and I tried to find a better one, but no luck, so instead I am providing a transcript of her speech.

Greta-COP24For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nations’ leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So, I will not ask them anything.

Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

Rich countries like Sweden need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else – but no one ever even mentions it.

Nor does hardly anyone ever talk about that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.

Furthermore does no one ever speak about the aspect of equity clearly stated everywhere in the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions, within 6–12 years with today’s emission speed, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity, and clean drinking water.

Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?

So when school started in August this year I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I school striked for the climate.

Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

So, we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

So, we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.

This young lady has courage beyond what I could have even begun to imagine when I was her age — or even now, for that matter!  She is an inspiration to so many others who have joined her in the good fight.  Every Wednesday I write this post about ‘Good People Doing Good Things’ … Greta Thunberg is by every measure a good person, and she is doing good things, not just for a few people, but for every living, breathing organism on this planet.  She is doing what our leaders haven’t the courage to do.  She is doing what none of us have the courage to do.  She is trying to save our lives.  I hope that the people with the money and more importantly, the power to do something listen to Greta and her words of wisdom, for all our lives depend on it.  If future generations stand a chance, it will be because of young people of conscience like Greta Thunberg.  Thank you, Greta.

Many thanks to Colette for this suggestion, and also for a number of emails containing links to information and video!  There is much more I could write about Greta Thunberg, but in the interest of time and space, I have included a few links below, for those who would like to know more.

Greta Thunberg: “Sweden is not a Role Model”

Greta Thunberg speaks in Katowice: ”Our leaders behave like children”

Greta on Twitter

Good People Doing Good Things — After The Fire

Y’know … sometimes it takes a catastrophic event, a tragedy, to bring out the best in people.  The devastating wildfires in California earlier this month seems to have brought out an awful lot of good in some people and it is those stories I’m bringing you today … those good people who gave of themselves to help others.  None of these good people are millionaires with money to spare, they are all just people like you and me, working every day just to pay the bills.  But they gave of whatever they had, be it food, information, love … they just gave.  These are the real heroes …

The spirit of the team …

The Cougars is the name of the Paradise, California, Adventist school’s volleyball team.  Sadly, as you might expect, they lost everything – equipment, uniforms, their school – in the wildfires that literally burned Paradise to the ground this month.  But those Cougars have spirit, they have energy, and they were determined to play their semifinal championship match on Saturday.

The team they would be playing was Forest Lake Christian High School in Auburn, some 85 miles south of Paradise.  Having already lost so much … some of these girls had lost their homes, as well as their school … they headed to Auburn on that day.  And what did they find?  Brand new uniforms, for starters!Paradise-uniformsCustom jerseys, shorts, knee pads and socks waiting for them as well as truckloads of donated clothes and more than $16,000 in cash and gift cards.  All of which was pulled together by the Forest Lake Christian community in less than 24 hours“I’ve never been so overwhelmed by so many things I would have never thought possible, and this is one of the most amazing things I could ever have thought would happen,” Paradise Adventist coach Jason Eyer said to the crowd. “Your community is awesome, and we are forever grateful.”

Forest Lake won the game, but new friendships were forged as the two teams posed for photos and enjoyed each other’s company.  This is what teamwork, compassion and humanity are all about, my friends.  These young people … bring happy tears, don’t they?

To save a kitty …

Shannon Jay is the man’s name, and he has been spending his days rescuing cats who survived the fire.  There isn’t anything much more vicious than a scared, hurt cat … trust me, I have the scars to prove it!  In this particular kitty rescue, there just happened to be a cinematographer on the scene recording the devastation when the rescue took place.  Take two minutes, if you will, to watch this … this man risked being mauled by this poor petrified cat, and his reaction after the cat was safe, tells a story all its own.  Gronda, get your tissues …

All in a day’s work …

Danny and Arek Zachara are brothers from Poland who migrated to America. They own MDD Exterior Inc. Contracting/Roofing company in Chicago.  We’ve all seen the pictures of the devastation, the lost homes, burned out cars alongside the road, and we’ve heard the stories of the people who barely made it out with their lives … and those who didn’t.  But we probably haven’t given much thought to livestock displaced by the fires.Zachara brothersBut Danny and Arek were farm boys back in the old country and they did think of the animals, how their source of food would have been burned up, so they did what anybody would do … loaded up their truck and started the 4,500-mile round trip journey to Wheeler Ranch and Feed in Biggs, California!  They had a trailer and a pickup truck filled with hay, livestock feed, and dog and cat food.

It wasn’t to be an easy journey.  It took them several days, as they encountered rain, sleet, snow and wind. That didn’t stop them.  A couple times they were snowed in and spent the night in their truck at various truck stops to guard their precious treasures for the animals and victims of the Camp Fire.  Big thumbs up to these guys!

Down on the farm …

Paulina Cortes is a preschool teacher in San Jose, California.  Last Tuesday she spent the day in and around the town of Lodi, an hour-and-a-half drive from her home in San Jose.  Why?  Because in the aftermath of the fires in California, she wanted to do something to help people.  Her thought was “Find a way to give to a community who needs help.”  And she did.  She visited farms in the area with a two-fold purpose:  to provide masks to farm workers in rural communities, and to educate the farm workers about the severity and dangers of the pollution.

“In Lodi yesterday the workers were picking fruit in ‘HAZARDOUS’ labeled air with an AQI [Air Quality Index] of 308… and worst of all is that none of them knew this. Not everyone has access to information that we have access to and what’s important is that we continue to build bridges to reach our communities.”Paulina Cortes

Most of the farmworkers in California are immigrants from Mexico, low-paid, without benefits, and many speak very little English.  Cortes made sure they understood how unhealthy the air is and why it is important they wear the masks she gave them.  Another of those “little things mean a lot” moments.

More than just a burrito …

José Uriarte owns a Mexican food truck restaurant called Gordo Burrito in Chico, California.  José is not a rich man, but in the aftermath of the Camp Fire that razed the town of Paradise, he wanted to help.  So … he pulled that food truck up to an evacuation shelter and did what he does best … started handing out tacos and burritos to the displaced in the shelter.Jose UriarteOn the first day he donated 300 meals at the Chico Elks Lodge refuge. And every day he is giving away food to others in the community who are helping in the state’s deadliest fire: firemen, EMTs, police, social workers, and displaced people in need of a warm meal.

“I’m just a small business owner but I see people and I’m like, ‘Here’s 10 or 15 burritos.’ It’s the least I can do.”food truck

These are good people, my friends.  And there are hundreds more stories like these.  I ask myself, if that happened in my community, what could I do.  What would I do?  Would I give of myself, my time, whatever resources I have available?  I hope I would … I think we never know until we find ourselves in that situation.

Good People Doing Good Things — Scott Macauley

Today I am focusing solely on one good person, for his deeds deserve the spotlight.Scott MacauleyIt began 33 years ago in 1985, when Scott Macaulay’s parents divorced, and he found himself all alone for the Thanksgiving holiday.  He was divorced also, and he really didn’t want to spend the day alone watching football with a tv dinner, or grab a burger from McDonald’s for his Thanksgiving dinner, so he placed an ad in the local paper, asking 12 strangers to join him for Thanksgiving dinner.McCauley-at-storeWell, he got twelve strangers to join him that year, and he enjoyed it so much that he has continued the tradition of a free Thanksgiving feast every year since.  He has hosted widows, the homeless, and college kids who can’t go home for the holiday.  Today, he estimates that he has about 70 people each year, and sometimes as many as 100, and he has no intention of stopping.  About a week before the day, he goes grocery shopping, and while he won’t say exactly how much he spends on the food to feed the crowd, he did say that it’s over $1,000! And apart from an occasional small donation from someone who has attended one of his dinners, Macauley fully funds this all himself.  He says he begins saving for next year right after the meal is finished.

Macauley lived just north of Boston in the town of Melrose, Massachusetts. Obviously, he cannot do all that cooking, nor fit all those people, in his house, so he prepares and serves the meal at a local church that donates the space each year.  The menu includes: Four large turkeys, five kinds of pie (pumpkin, apple, mince, cherry and the ever-popular Hershey’s frozen sundae pie), sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, butternut squash, cranberries, fruit cups and rolls with butter.  I typically cook for 8-10 people on Thanksgiving, and that is exhausting!  I cannot imagine how many hours this man must spend on his feet, in the kitchen, and all to do something good for others.Macauley-fireplaceHe goes all out, too … no skimping here!  A few days before, he hauls in sofas, recliners, oriental rugs, even a couple of fake fireplaces, and decorates the church’s rec hall to resemble a cozy living room. Candlesticks and cloth napkins are placed on the tables, curtains are hung in the windows, and adjoining rooms are set up for guests to relax and get to know each other over appetizers: chips and dip in one room and cheese and crackers in the next.

“This isn’t about the food, though. It’s about having a place to go. Silence is unbearable, especially on Thanksgiving. My goal is always to replicate the feeling of having a nice dinner in somebody’s home.”

And he has memories …

“There was a guy one year who’d just lost his wife. And after dinner, he put on her old apron and helped me to do the dishes.”

One year, he said, an elderly woman paid $200 for an ambulance to drive her to the church from her nursing home. She arrived decked out in fancy clothes and told Macaulay she hadn’t been out in seven years. She cried when dinner was over.

Another year, Macaulay took a plate out to a woman who was living in her car and was too ashamed of her plight to come inside until almost everyone had gone home.

Then there was the time his parents both showed up. Macaulay’s mother was dying of breast cancer and wanted to be with family. So did his dad. “There they were, sitting on the couch together, holding each other’s hand, years after their divorce. I can still see them sitting there. That’s a happy memory.”

Macaulay also has a son, Walter, 22, who pitches in to help serve and clean up. He’s the designated turkey carver. Neither father nor son batted an eye a few years ago when Macaulay’s ex-wife strolled in with her new husband and offered to play the piano while everyone ate!

Imagine if just a few people in every city did what Scott Macauley is doing?  He is a true humanitarian, something we need many more of today.  Thank you, Scott Macauley, for your contribution to the people in your town, and for giving the rest of us just a wee bit of hope for the future of humanity.

Good People Doing Good Things — Firefighters And Other Heroes

As of this writing, Tuesday afternoon, 44 people are confirmed dead and another 200+ missing in the deadliest fires in California’s history.  More than 7,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed, and that number, as well as the death toll, is certain to rise.  More than 8,000 firefighters have been on the job since Thursday, and the end is not yet in sight.  Today’s ‘good people’ post is dedicated to these men and women, as well as others who have been good Samaritans, have helped people in the face of this terrible tragedy.  Gronda … get your tissues …

firefightersNow, I can’t bring you any personal tales of heroism from or about firefighters just yet, for these guys don’t have time to tell their stories right now … there’s still a lot of fire that needs fighting and they are working past the point of exhaustion, sleeping an hour or two, then going back at it like … well, like fighting fire.  No need for personal stories … these men and women are heroes.  They are trying to save lives, property and land, even pets. firefighter rescues catAt last count, at least 36 of the firefighters themselves had lost everything they own to the fires.  They have seen their town, their kids’ schools, their doctors’ offices, banks and neighbors’ homes turned to rubble, and yet they keep going back into that fiery inferno toting up to 75 pounds of gear and equipment.  For hours, and hours with no relief.  I give them the highest five I can muster.  Since I don’t have their individual stories to tell just now, I am bringing some of them to you in pictures.FF1FF2FF3FF4ff5.pngFF6ff7.pngFF8A firefighter drags a hose as he battles the Camp Fire in Paradise

And then there were other heroes …

Allyn Pierce is an ICU nurse at Adventist Health in Paradise.  He and other co-workers first made several trips to help evacuate patients to safety, but after the patients were all safely evacuated, he and his two colleagues were heading to safety when suddenly they found themselves gridlocked in traffic, unable to move, with fire surrounding them on all sides.  This is the view from inside his truck …View from Pierce's carFlames licked at the side of his truck, and as Allyn watched other cars catch fire, he thought his was next. He even recorded a message for his family, “Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out.” 

Out of the smoke, there appeared a bulldozer that cleared a small space, but instead of going forward to safety … Allyn, who had already resigned himself to possibly dying, turned around and headed back into Paradise to see if he could help others!  Back at the hospital, he found that many of the townspeople had gone there seeking help, safety … refuge. Pierce's triage centerSo, he gathered a crew … doctors, nurses, police, paramedics … anyone willing to lend a hand, and they set up a triage center about 100 yards from the burning hospital where they did the best they could for people while waiting … for what?  Eventually, firefighters arrived and were able to clear a path and escort those at the triage center to safety.  Allyn’s only casualty was his truck … it melted.Pierce's truckBut the story doesn’t end here.  Pierce would later find out that he had lost his home to the fire.  After his story was told on an ABC News affiliate station, he was writing about his experience on Facebook when there was a comment from @toyotausa:

“We are humbled you’d risk your life and Toyota Tundra to drive people to safety.  Don’t worry about your truck, we’re honoured to get you a new one.”

Paradise Unified School District middle school was about to fall victim to the Camp Fire on Thursday.  The children were already at school when science teacher Mark Kessler heard propane tanks nearby exploding due to the excessive heat and he knew it was time to evacuate.  But how to get the hundreds of children out quickly and to safety?

Teachers, aides and bus drivers went into action, loading children into their own vehicles, buses, whatever vehicle was available.  A sheriff’s deputy directed them to the nearby town of Chico and told them to cram as many as they could into each vehicle and “seatbelt laws don’t apply”.  Even though the town of Chico was typically about a 20-minute drive, on this day it would take them several hours, plowing through smoke, burning debris, and flames on gridlocked country roads.  According to Kessler …

“There were trees burning on the side of the road. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see. We had very traumatized teachers who were certain they were going to die in the car with their students.”

All of these people had homes and families in jeopardy from the fire, but instead of seeing to their own, they saw to these young students, brought them to safety and by Friday morning had re-united all with their parents.  How very brave and dedicated these men and women were.

I have no doubt that from the ashes will emerge hundreds of stories of extraordinary courage, acts of bravery … it is these that we should remember when the world shows us its darker side … these are the real people, the humanitarians who, when the chips are down, put others before themselves.  These are the people doing the good things, while others sit back and find fault. Thank you again to the men and women who are fighting so long and hard to save lives, homes and property.

Good People Doing Good Things — Everyday Heroes

This evening I began working on what I thought would be today’s ‘good people’ post, but the deeper I dug, the better it got, and I simply began, after about 3 hours’ effort, to realize that it was more than I could finish before the clock ran out on me.  So, you will have that one to look forward to in a week or two.  Meanwhile, as always, I was able to find a number of everyday heroes, people who do the right thing just because it is the right thing.  These are the real people in the world, those who see someone struggling and jump in to help.

A community pitches in …

For months, Teresa Steele, pregnant with her first child, has been living with no air conditioning or heat after someone stole the copper from her property and broke her home’s HVAC unit.

“I called insurance and they wouldn’t cover it. It feels bad because this is how we live… They did it to take the copper and sell it for a few dollars. I don’t have $6,000 to get a new system.”

Steele needed to get her unit repaired in the next few weeks or she was going to lose her home owner’s insurance. She was also worried that social services would take her baby from her if she brought a newborn home to a cold house. And while she has reached out to various organizations for help, she had no luck.

Ms. Steele lives in Richmond, Virginia, where a local CBS affiliate has a segment called Problem Solvers and it was to them that Steele turned for help after all else had failed. Once they aired her story, she says her phone began ringing off the hook.

“My phone’s going crazy. People were sending me messages and saying stuff like, ‘We’re willing to help.’ And it was just bringing tears to my eyes.”

She was still crying when River City Heating owner Bobby Robinson and his crew pulled up last Thursday to fix her unit for free.  Robinson said his wife saw the story and urged him to help.

“What goes around comes around, so one day I might be in need of help and hopefully there will be help for me,” Robinson said.Steele-1

Her local energy company also pitched in to lighten her load by placing Steele on their “Energy Share” program which will reduce her monthly heating bill.

“You never know who’s out there listening to you. You have to have faith… and have to believe that the more you spread your love, someone will have love to spread back to you.”

Dogs is people too …

Okay, so I know this is a ‘good people’ post, but open your minds and hearts and let this canine hero in, okay?  (My grammar/spelling program keeps trying to change “hero in” to ‘heroin’ … a sign of our times?)ToddMeet Todd, a six-month-old Golden Retriever who just happened to save the life of his owner, Paula Godwin.  It happened while Todd and Paula were out for a walk near their home in Arizona, and suddenly a grey-speckled rattlesnake appeared.  Todd put himself between the snake and Paula and was himself bitten.  Todd is on the mend, and in a humanitarian moment, the makers of Milk Bone sent him a package of treats to aid in his recovery.  But that’s not all …

Milk-Bone named Todd their “Dog of the Year”. Milk-Bone says the award is designed to celebrate bravery, overcoming obstacles, strong personality and loyalty traits that make all dogs truly special.  According to senior brand manager Jonathan Rodgers …

“We created this honor because we believe that dogs deserve to be honored in the same way humans are honored. We are thrilled that fans voted for Todd to win the first ever Milk-Bone Dog of the Year Honor. Todd truly embodies the qualities associated with this honor and goes above and beyond by providing comfort and happiness to all of those around him.”

pawprintWoof, Todd … just woof!

A mysterious do-gooder …

I do not know the name of this good person, but I know the name of the recipient of his generosity:  Zac Oliver.  Zac was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia in May. He is the only person with the condition in the UK and just one of six in the world. The treatment has recently been licensed for use in the UK, but strict medical criteria means Zac is not eligible.ZacAn anonymous donor heard about Zac’s situation and donated £100,000, or about $130,000 USD, to help with Zac’s treatment.

Zac’s family can now afford to fly him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for its 17-week CAR T-cell therapy which will give Zac a 60-80 percent chance of survival, as opposed to less than 25 percent if he continues with chemotherapy in the UK.

Zac’s mom, Hannah, said she received a phone call out of the blue telling her “not to worry” and to “pack her bags”, reassuring her it was not a hoax. Hours later, the money appeared in their bank account.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, anonymous donor, thank you for giving Zac that extra chance to live.

A chance for dreams to come true …

24-year-old Cavin Muodzi is a Zimbabwean living and working as a waiter in South Africa.  As a child, he had dreams of becoming a football player (For my U.S. friends, ‘football’ anywhere but in the U.S. is what we call ‘soccer’.  Other nations do not play with de-flated ovoid balls made of pigskin.)

Muodzi says his mother didn’t support his football dreams. She wanted him to pursue an academic career. But that didn’t stop him from dreaming. Now he would like to live his dream by helping children in a similar situation.Cavin MuodsiMuodzi founded Harvest Soccer Academy in 2016 and currently sponsors 43 young children, with most of the funding coming from … wait for it … the tips Muodzi earns at his job as a waiter!

One of the young students, Yibanathi Joji, 15, of Muizenberg High School, says, “My parents are happy that I am off the streets and being a good example to my young brother. I now come home early, do my homework on time, don’t smoke and am obedient to my parents.”

Who could ask for anything more?

Folks, none of these people did huge, elaborate things.  Sometimes I think in today’s world, we have come to think in terms of dollar signs with at least six figures behind them, even though none of us will likely ever see that much money.  But the point is that … it isn’t about money.  If we’re focused on the big things, it’s altogether too easy to miss the little things, and sometimes those are the most important.  It’s about caring enough to share whatever you have, be it time, knowledge, skills, expertise, or money.  These are the people we should be taking pride in, not the bloated egoists who occupy the halls of government or Wall Street.