Smell the Coffee: Acts of paying it forward rekindle hope
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even the most cynical Scrooge would find it hard to hold on to his humbug after hearing about how anonymous donors began visiting Kmart stores to pay off the layaway accounts of complete strangers.
The "layaway angels," as the anonymous donors have been dubbed, would pay off balances remaining on accounts of those who have mostly toys or children's clothing laid away.
Just hours after the initial story broke about the first layaway angels, others in towns all across the U.S. -- including the Charleston area -- began following suit.
"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees," Amelia Earhart wrote. "The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves."
A few weeks back there was a story in the news about an elderly Iowa City man who accidentally donated a suit to Goodwill, forgetting that it had his life savings, about $13,000, hidden inside the pocket. According to the story, the man didn't trust banks, and his wife was undergoing treatment for stage-4 cancer.
As word about the lost donation spread, Goodwill was swamped with calls and emails from people wanting to help the man.
"It's been extremely heartwarming, the number of people reaching out to help," said Dana Engelbert, vice president of marketing for Goodwill of the Heartland. "The phone at the Moline store rang almost nonstop with people calling about it, and I've received emails from as far away as Germany."
Most every community has their own version of Angel Trees and Neediest Cases and Secret Santa programs, and in all of them, people step up to take care of the needs of others they'll likely never meet in person.
You hear so much negative news, how the world is going to hell, how morals are declining and big-corporation mentality is going to be the end for us all. These have been scary times, so it can be strange what can bring a person comfort.
For me, I've found it in "We are the 99 percent." While the quote stems from the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed, for me, it means something else.
It means the good guys are actually facing down a teeny little army. Granted, the bad boys are often in powerful positions and get a lot of scary PR, but we so outnumber them. Evil isn't anywhere near as scary when you see it as the 1 percent, and you're part of the 99.
I like how, especially during the holiday season, the good guys come out of the woodwork to take care of their own.
We all have a choice. We can see only the bad, can cower in the corner and complain, or we can look for -- and be a part of -- the good. It's a choice.
There's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Each creates a ripple that spreads out through the world with no foreseeable end.
Reach Karin Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.