Remembering Karim: The Man Who Built A Community Through Kindness
Driving down Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge, Mass. you’ll pass Nick’s, a nondescript, two-pump gas station that looks no different from any other station in town. But if you talk to regular customers, they’ll say they go out of their way to fill up at Nick’s — even if it means getting just a gallon of gas.
That fierce devotion is in no small part due to Karim Alagha, who pumped gas at Nick’s for more than two decades, until shortly before his death in December 2012.
We spoke to his friends and longtime customers, who told us of the profound effect Karim’s “little acts of kindness” had on their lives, and the great lengths they went to to make sure Karim was comfortable during the final days of his own life.
[Listen on Kind World]
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.
[Story submitted by Kathy Johnson]
How much good could you do with a $5 bill? That question was at the heart of an experiment that Reverend Nathan Detering tried with his congregation in Sherborn, Mass. He called it a “reverse offering,” where instead of asking members to donate money to the church, he GAVE his congregants money so that they could perform an act of kindness for others.
That small amount of money was given a large meaning. And I really wanted people to appreciate that. It’s not the number on the bill that can make the difference, often it’s the intention behind it.
Somebody had folded up their $5 bill in their wallet, and they said they were walking through their life with a different kind of vision for the need that was around them. It was only $5, but the money helped them grow new antennae for the world around them. For five bucks, that’s a priceless thing.
[Full story on Kind World]
That’s what skydiving instructor David Hartsock told his student Shirley Dygert moments before hitting the ground after both their primary and reserve parachutes failed to deploy properly.
In a split-second decision Hartsock performed an act of utter selflessness that saved the life of his student at a great expense to his own.
[Full story with audio]