After World War II Peg Grandison and her parents moved outside of Massachusetts so her father could work at a textile company and make a very modest but livable income. His income, however, was not enough to pay for therapy to fix his stutter or even the bus ticket to get to Boston for treatment. And in a story that seems almost unfathomable today, the therapist in Boston as well as the therapist’s superior did everything they could do to get him the treatment — and money — he needed.
I was walking my two dogs along the Charles River in Cambridge a couple of months ago and came across a homeless man fast asleep with his dog curled up beside him. The dog lay there, tucked into his master’s hip, watchful, loyal and quiet.
Also beside the man was a bottle of water in a bucket, presumably to keep it cool during the night and his shopping cart of possessions. Something struck me about the scene. Here was a chap trying to do what he could to keep his friend with him and not abandon him to a shelter, both loyal to each other. As I walked my two spoiled dogs home I decided I couldn’t bare that homeless man’s dog going hungry. After dropping off my dogs at the house I walked to my local Whole Foods, picked up a loaf of bread, some peanut butter, a bag of apples and a bag of dog food. I walked back to where they were, the man was still asleep, the dog still beside him. I placed the bag of groceries beside his shopping cart, his dog lay quiet, still watching and sniffed the air.
I like to think that the man woke up hungry, wondering how he and his dog were going to eat that day. I hope he didn’t have a nut allergy.
(Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack/Flickr)
Boston winter’s can be rough. And anyone in Boston remembers the winter of 2010 - snow storms regularly, ice buildup, frigid temperatures. Elizabeth Ryan remembers it well. Not only because of the terrible weather, but because of a story of that came as a result of it, which to this day, is one of her favorite stories to tell.
Probably about a year and a half ago, I think it was February 2011 [2010-2011 winter], we were having a horrible winter in Boston. It felt like we had snow storms every single day, everything was constantly covered in ice - it was brutal. There was one time that my car just totally stuck. The tires were smoking, they just weren’t going anywhere. I tried salting it and sanding it and, just, nothing was working. So eventually I called AAA and it looked like he had a tow truck. And he got out and literally said, “Oh you’re really stuck. There’s nothing I can do with this truck.” And I was sort of hoping he would then say “Well, I’ll get another truck” or “I’ll call somebody who has the right equipment.” But he didn’t - he got in his car and just said sorry and left. And I started just sobbing and trying to chip away at the ice again, um, and this woman walked by and saw me and stopped and said, “Can I help you?” and she looked at me like she was not going to leave me alone. So she called her father who was nearby. A few minutes later, this little older man drove up in his car, jumped out - he was short, had a white beard. Kind of reminded me of Santa Claus. He was very full of energy. Immediately [he] sort of set to work in trying to get my car undone - he sent me to get a bigger shovel, more sand. And for 20 minutes just worked magic on my car, between the three of us, and eventually got it unstuck. And the fact that these people cared enough about somebody they didn’t know to stop, it just meant a huge amount to me, and I think that when something like that does happen it leaves such an impression that it affects more than just the immediate situation itself.
Have you ever been in a drive-thru or paying the toll at a toll booth only to find that the car in front of you has generously paid for you? Well, you might have been riding behind Dennis C. You see, Dennis makes a game out of being kind to people and he has been ever since he was a teenager. Here he is explaining it.
Music: Poor Boy, Minor Key
by M. Ward
What I find is when you’re having a lousy day and you feel like the world is moving in all the wrong direction, I find it beneficial to go after something I can control, and try to do something that will improve somebody’s day. To me, I make a game of it. The goal is do something nice for someone but don’t get caught doing it. So go through the tollbooth, go through the drive-thru and by a coffee for the person behind you, or tell the tollbooth operator, “Hey, the guy behind me too. Tell him I said to have a nice day!” and then you get out of there as fast as you can, because you don’t want to get caught.
One time, and this must have been years ago, I was coming home from Hampton beach in NH and I came through the toll and I paid the toll for the car behind me, and it ended up being a car full of rowdy teenage guys. And I took off and tried to lose them, and I weaved through some traffic and I thought I had escaped and they came flying up behind me in the rearview. Eventually they caught me as I was getting off the off-ramp, and they were whizzing by on the highway, and they all had t heir heads out the window and they were all screaming and waving “thanks!” That was probably one of the first times I did something like that, and it gets kind of addicting. I think we can choose to have a responsibility to one another, and we can choose to be good to each other. I remember my mother helping out and buying groceries for a family nearby – it was actually a friend of mine – and it was always a big secret that he wasn’t to know that my mother was helping his mother. And there are limitless opportunities that come along for us to do that, and you’ve got to put that out there if that’s the world you want to live in.
I met Julie B. on a rainy Tuesday morning at her home in Milton. The story she told me sent shivers down my spine. She spoke about the time she biked from Boston to New York on the New York AIDS Ride, and how close she came to giving up. But it was the kindness of one stranger who gave her the strength she needed to push on.
featuring music by
The Novel Ideas
It was 1996 and I was doing the Boston to NY AIDS ride. Hurricane Edward came the second day, and while we didn’t have a hurricane where we actually were riding that day, we had hurricane force winds and rains. So it was very, very dismal, it was cold it was wet, it was dark. We had to do about 8-0 miles that day. I was not a born athlete – I had to train every single day for the 6 months up to the AIDS ride. It was very, very challenging for me, I didn’t know if I could do it. At this one particular point, I just felt like I can’t do it, I can’t do it. And all I wanted was a real bathroom – not an outhouse – and a cup of coffee. So I’m really, really crying, I’m ready to dump my bike on the side of the road and just give up. When there in the middle of the road stood a woman and she had this long, flow-y skirt on and this peasant blouse, and she stood in the middle of the road with her arms held out and said “Free coffee for all the AIDS riders!” I made it across the highway and got into the Dunkin Donuts and said to the man at the counter, “You don’t know what this means to me. This is amazing that you’re giving coffee at this particular place at this particular time.” And he said, “I didn’t give the free coffee. That lady in the road came in and handed me $500 and said ‘the $500 is for all the riders, and if you run out come out and I’ll give you some more’” It just – I want to cry when I think about her. It meant such a huge thing. I was ready to give up. I had made this goal, I had worked really hard for this goal, and I didn’t think I could do it. She gave me the hope and the sustenance to keep going. And anytime I would start to get tired, I’d smile thinking of this woman standing in the middle of the road screaming “Free coffee for all the riders!” and I just thought yeah I have to keep going. And I did the Boston to New York AIDS Ride. But I might not have done it had it not been for her.