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It can be as simple as doing the dishes

Over a decade ago, my father was dying from lung cancer. I was a single mom, running a consulting business and now making numerous trips to the hospital with him for chemotherapy treatments and spending nights at his house during hospice care. Needless to say, it was emotionally and physically exhausting and left me little time to tend to every day matters like grocery shopping and house cleaning. One night I arrived home late from a recent visit with my dad, to find my kitchen spotless. A dear friend (who’s mother had died from cancer a few years earlier) and her boyfriend had taken it upon themselves to do the dishes. So simple, and yet so profound. I have never forgotten that sweet, simple gesture.

[Photo credit: peapod labs/flickr]

User Submission: Where Santa Hides

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:

Dear Kathy,

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.  

Love, Santa

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]

Tracking The Ripple Effect Of Kindness

It was a busy Saturday afternoon just before Christmas.  I was the third person in line at the cash register at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  The first person in line was an elderly woman who was having a pleasant conversation with the cashier while helping to pack her 3 bags of groceries.  Behind her, and in front of me, was an athletic looking, middle-aged man.  Just before the elderly woman retrieved her wallet to pay, the man struck up a quiet conversation with the woman and the cashier.  When I saw the elderly woman’s eyes tear up as she gently patted the man’s back, I thought that I had witnessed an act of kindness and generosity. Once the man had left the store I asked the cashier to confirm what I thought I had seen: the man unexpectedly paying for the woman’s groceries.  She told me that was exactly what had happened.  We both expressed gratitude for having witnessed this kindness; and I reflected on this all day.

When I returned home my daughter Emily had just arrived from New York to celebrate the holidays.  I was full of excitement and emotion when I told her the Trader Joe’s story, and she was just as moved as I was. Emily is hard to keep up with because she travels around the globe for a literacy project at Columbia University.   She had just returned from Singapore so she was really raking up the frequent flyer miles that give her a shot at upgrading her seat to first class.  I know it sounds decadent to travel first class but when you live in the air and in hotels, it is a great time to catch up on lagging sleep.  When Emily left after Christmas, the Trader Joe’s incident stayed with her.  When she got to Logan Airport to head for the west coast she was not even close to the top of the list for an upgrade but was given a comfortable bulkhead seat at the front of coach.  Once she was settled in, a flight crew commotion that halted the boarding progress occurred when a woman in a wheelchair was being shuttled to row 25.  Emily offered the woman her seat to be able to have more room and took the woman’s seat in row 25.  After about 10 minutes had passed a flight attendant walked over to Emily in row 25 and offered her a first class seat.  

I believe the positive energy created by the man at Trader Joe’s had an amazing ripple effect for a lot of people.  Thank you to that athletic, middle-aged man in line at Trader Joe’s.

Story submitted by Susan DeLiddo
Photo credit: Scarlatti2004/Flickr

With Help From Neighbors, A Struggling Family Starts A Holiday Tradition


Living in poverty can generate stories of kindness, a certain quality of which—I imagine—cannot be experienced by even the slightly well-to-do. As a child, I was struck by my mother’s accounts of her family’s meager Christmases, which colored my sense of the meaning of the holiday. But for a middle-class, second-generation American child, those images—though lasting—could be, at best, a mere copy of the original.

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Friends, Family, And Strangers Come Together After House Fire

We had a horrible house fire last October. Devastated, not knowing yet what, if anything, could be replaced or repaired, I posted the incident on my Facebook Page. Within an hour, offers of help, food, a place to stay, a car to drive, came in from many people (including our banker and insurance agent). All of them followed through with their offers. There are a lot of good people out there; sometimes it takes a near tragedy to recognize it.

Our house was repaired and new furniture delivered the day before Christmas, another miracle wrought by our out-of-work contractor friends, who also received a wonderful Christmas gift in the form of payment because of our insurance company and bank.

Without doubt, there are angels among us.

Story by: Kathryn Burke
Photo by: f2n_downtown