It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your own life that you don’t pay attention to the struggles of strangers. That’s why we’re so surprised (or even suspicious) when a stranger does something unexpected and kind for someone else.
A kind word here or a small donation there can inspire others to reach deep into their own wells of generosity. Good deeds and generosity are interesting because they are contagious, which is why even small actions can have a dramatic impact.
Here are six stories that demonstrate how going the extra mile to help someone can change lives.
This Is No Junk Mail
Images from Facebook
Book donations to the county library aren’t unusual, but receiving thousands of books from a 12-year-old boy is out of the ordinary. Even more interesting is how he got the books in the first place. Mail carrier Ron Lynch was working his regular route when a young Matthew Flores approached him to ask if he had any extra newsletters or junk mail. Matthew explained that he loved to read, but his family couldn’t afford books. Even getting to the library was usually out of the question, so he would take anything the mailman could offer. Mr. Lynch reached out to friends through social media to ask for reading material, and the response was overwhelming. After the story went viral, Matthew received thousands of books from all over the world. Now Mathew is sharing the wealth of books with refugees, shelters, jails, and the Salt Lake County Library.
LouAnn’s Last Flight
Image from Facebook
LouAnn Alexander worked as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant for 34 years, until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 58 years old. Her elder brother, Rex Ridenoure, was flying to see LouAnn to help arrange for hospice care when he had an idea. Suddenly too ill to fly as the cancer quickly progressed, LouAnn had never had the chance to say goodbye to the flying that she loved so much. Rex asked the flight attendant if the crew had any spare wings that he could bring his ailing sister as a momento.
As it turns out, the flight attendant on board was a longtime coworker of LouAnn’s, and she agreed to let Rex talk to the passengers about his sister. He passed around his phone to show pictures and handed out napkins to travelers who offered to write a message for LouAnn. Ninety-six passengers offered words of compassion, such as “Your brother made me love you, and I don’t even know you.” Some drew pictures, and others even made flowers from the napkins.
Image from Lake County Sheriff’s Department Facebook
When Sheriff Dunlap of Lake County, Ohio, swears in new deputies, he offers them advice: “There are many opportunities to be kind in this job. If you are in an older person’s home and they happen to have a beautiful rose garden, tell them that; and if you see a lemonade stand, don’t be afraid to buy some lemonade. You don’t have to drink it. “
When Deputy Zach Ropos joined the team, he took Dunlap’s community outreach goals to heart. That’s why he stopped by 9-year-old Gabrielle’s lemonade stand one hot summer day. The young girl told the deputy that she was trying to earn enough money to buy an iPad, which she could use to read, play games, and access the internet for school.
After his shift, Ropos found his own iPad with the intention of giving it to Gabrielle, but it no longer worked. He then generously bought her a brand-new iPad, and the picture above says it all.
Simi Valley’s Hazelnut
Young Hazel Hammersley (a.k.a. “Hazelnut”) was getting treatment for a tumor in her abdomen at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. To lighten the mood, her mother spelled out “SEND PIZZA” with masking tape on the window of their hospital room.
A passerby posted a photo of the sign to Reddit, one of the biggest communities on the web. Users sent dozens of pizzas to Hammersley’s room, so many that the hospital eventually had to request that the pizza deliveries stop.
Hazel was an inspiration in her community, although she lost her struggle with cancer earlier this year. The girl’s five-year battle was chronicled by her family and captured the attention and support of people everywhere (including Reddit).
Pay It Forward
Nine-year-old Atticus Seng had his bike stolen from outside his Fresno elementary school twice in one month. After the second incident, this unlucky boy was featured on a local news segment that caught the attention of Fresno High School students. The teenagers raised $360 from teachers and other students and were soon able to present Seng with a new mountain bike.
Seng’s parents were touched by the generosity and decided to pay it forward. They donated an equal amount of money to purchase bikes and helmets for three other children in need.
Hopefully they found some better locks, too.
That’s a Tough Commute
How far would you be willing to walk to work? It may not have been in the snow, uphill both ways, but 56-year-old James Robertson did walk 21 miles and take two bus rides every day to get to his factory job. This crazy commute left Robertson with only a couple of hours for sleep, and it was all to get to a job earning a modest $10.55 an hour.
How long did James keep up his diligent routine? He has 12 years of perfect attendance and has never been late to work. He started walking to work a decade ago when his aging Honda quit on him. After his employer moved nine miles in the opposite direction and bus service in town was repeatedly reduced, he was forced to walk longer and longer distances to make it to work.
After the Detroit Free Press caught wind of Robertson’s daily struggle, a crowdfunding project on GoFundMe.com was started to help James get a car. Thanks to the media attention, Robertson received over $350,000 in donations, which several volunteer financial advisors will help him to manage.
As to the car, a local Ford dealership gave Mr. Robertson a new Taurus. Robertson said he wanted the Taurus because “It’s like me: simple on the outside, strong on the inside.”