Shelagh Gordon’s kindness was powerful. She was the kind of person who would buy a lottery ticket — not hundreds, but one — and immediately write a list of names to whom she could divide the winnings.
At 55, Shelagh died suddenly of a massive brain aneurysm. At a glance, her name was just another name in the obituaries, but something stood out to Catherine Porter, a journalist at the Toronto Star. So she explored deeper. What emerged, was an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary person told through the perspectives of the family and friends Shelagh had left behind.
This is not a story of great drama, but it changed my life — perhaps saved it.
At 43 years old I was very ill with an undiagnosed illness for a few years. My family was deceased, my friends long gone and I saw no one but health care workers a few days a week. Of course the disability payments kept me going but there were no extras. I was discouraged, exhausted, and so lonely.
Christmas came, though it was unlikely that I would have noticed it except for the knock at the door one day. I didn’t recognize the woman who came in and handed me an envelope with my name on it then quickly left. When I opened it, five $20 bills fell out.
There was a typed letter that said:
Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
The money was welcome, yes, but the warmth I felt that someone (I had not a clue who) was thinking of me and cared meant the most. The world shifted a bit for me. Maybe things would turn out alright, I thought.
That was 20 years ago. I am still sick, pretty poor, but I live my life with as much joy and color and passion as I can. And whenever I am able, I slide an anonymous card, sweater, or CD to someone who has found a deep bottom.
I do this with gratitude for the opportunity to try to give back all that was given to me in that one envelope, from that special heart.
A Story Of Kindness In The Immediate Aftermath Of September 11
Angelique Tung had just been told to return to her colleague’s office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the second plane hit. Instantly, the smell of jet fuel wafted through the building. Scared for her life, she ran, and when she arrived outside the scene was chaos. People running. Crying. Screaming.
She fled uptown, and while trying to leave the city a stranger offered a kindness that in any other situation might have been overlooked. But for Anqelique — on that day — it meant everything.
When Carol Fernandez went tubing with her friends on the Salt River in Arizona 30 years ago, she was expecting an idyllic day of aquatic activities. And for the first hour that is precisely what she got – that is until, unexpectedly, her tube flipped over, the rope tethering her friends’ tubes to her own pinning her underwater.
Fernandez, 21-years-old at the time, had a full life ahead of her — she was young, engaged, and madly in love — but in an instant she risked losing it all. The adrenaline coursing through her veins, she viciously fought to get to the surface of the shallow water. Luckily, her struggle was loud enough to catch the attention of a man floating nearby.
"There just happened to be this guy who had gotten stuck under the bridge,” Fernandez recalled of the situation. “He lifted my head up so that I could breathe, but he thought my neck was going to break so he let go." Fernandez says she held her breath for as long as she could, but soon had no choice but to breathe in water.
LISTEN: CAROL FERNANDEZ DESCRIBES WHAT IT’S LIKE TO NEARLY DROWN
And that was the last thing she remembers before waking up on the banks of the river surrounded by a large onlooking crowd. One man was leaning directly over her – the man who had revived her. And beside him, stood the man who tried to free her on the river.
The two were friends, and both played a critical role in saving Fernandez’s life, and despite telling them “thank you” repeatedly, she wishes she could say more.
“You don’t know at the time the impact that it’s going to have. You know, [to say] this is going to affect me every day for the rest of my life – you really can’t tell that to somebody. But it would be really great to tell them that now.”
Without the quick action of those two men, she says, she might not have survived – and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“I think about you guys – whoever you are — what you did has stayed with me every single day. I hope that somehow they know that.”
After her near-death experience Carol went on to become a mother, a wife, and a lawyer, and now lives with her family in Newton, Mass..