Heroes Of The Week

Yeah . . . I know.

That’s why we have heroes . . . .

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Kevin Love has made our Friday list a time or two, so it’s no surprise to see him back for another win this week. He recently donated $100,000 through the Kevin Love Fund to arena and support staff employees of the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the NBA season on hold and the future uncertain, Love is doing his part to ease some of the burden on the folks who make game nights happen. His gesture has inspired some of his baller compadres as well as several team owners to do the same. K Love says it’s all about “paying it forward”. I say he’s a champion on and off the court.

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With the COVID-19 virus affecting the way all of us go about our daily lives, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been a much needed voice of reason and calm. He’s a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and unlike Mr Trump, Fauci has had both of his boots on the ground since this virus came to light. Fauci has been making the rounds- from morning talk shows to blogger podcasts. Calm, informative and insightful, he’s been a genuine voice of reason inside these uncertain times and it’s nice to know we have the good doctor on our side.

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Be afraid and be very afraid if you’re a person of a certain age, because COVID-19 is coming for you and (fill in the horrible blanks from there). Thing is, Handoko Gunawan has never been daunted by this virus, not for one minute. The eighty year old lung specialist remained on the front lines in West Jakarta, Indonesia; treating patients at risk as well as those affected. He recently became ill and reports coming out of West Jakarta are sketchy at best. But remember what I was saying this past week about saying a prayer for people who really need it right now? Let’s do that.

Right about now, Coaches Bar and Grill in Columbus Ohio should be raising the roof thanks to a sports slate that was supposed to include March Madness, NFL free agency and the start of the baseball season. And then everything changed; sports went away and people were told to stay out of public venues, and Coaches had to close up shop for the foreseeable future as a result. But on their way out, a regular at the sports bar decided to leave the workers a tip to ease the financial crunch in the form of a $2,500 tip.

Patrick “Benny” Leonard is the owner of Coaches, and he said it would be nice if people stopped fighting over toilet paper and adopted the mindset of this anonymous tipper. In other words, let’s remember the biggest team sport of them all. Humanity.

The capper on my Heroes isn’t about a hero at all. It’s about where us humans go from here. The photograph you’re looking at is one of the many canals in Venice and the story grab is courtesy of the lovely Dale over at A Dalectable Life. And yeah, those are fish you see swimming it up inside waters you can actually see through. For now. Until the new normal goes back to the old way of doing things.

And I know what you’re saying . . . But Marc! Things will never go back to the way they were before! The world has changed! Forever!

Well, we’ve felt this kind of thing and said this kind of thing and believed this kind of thing before. And then the world returned itself to us and we behaved very much like the entitled stewards that had been playing up the A side as if it had infinite thread on its musical wheels.

The rules of nature are speaking to us through that canal in Venice. They’re reminding us that we are tenants to this place, and that all the high and mighty we can muster isn’t going to save our asses from losing the keys if we’re not careful. It’s up to us to not simply learn the lessons inside this time in our history, but to live them. It’s not asking for us to stop doing the things we did before, it’s simply asking us do the one thing we tend to get away from when times are good.

Listen.

 

 

 

Best Of Heroes Of The Week!

As per an idea suggested by Susannah B, I’m offering up a “Best Of” episode. And not a moment too soon, since Heroes turned a year old . . . in December. That’s right, I only missed the first anniversary of Heroes by . . . four months.

Heroes first debuted on December 7, 2018 and it was titled “Top Five Heroes Of The Week”, which was soon abbreviated to “Top 5 Heroes Of The Week” and finally “Heroes Of The Week”. If you’ve been reading since those days, you know I dished these puppies up in equal amounts of likes and yikes back then. I even posted a “Villains of the Week” episode last August. Alas, it was the only such venture and the good guys bought the joint for good on December 5 when Heroes became Zero-Free.

So this is how it’s going to work. I ain’t utilized brevity on this post, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to cut to the music before it’s time. Besides, you peeps who know the what’s what on Heroes will spot those stories that hit you in the feels back when you read them the first time. So just sidle up to them and get reunited with that spell. And for those of you who may be new to this stretch of moment? Just pick a story, any story. Find the something that allows you to learn the world for all its winning and losing of a crazy beautiful chance.

Just go with it.

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(March 1, 2019) This story was courtesy of the lovely Dale at A Dalectable Life

Carey Price is a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, and if you’ve never heard of him before, you’re probably an American. And that’s alright, because Price is doing his thing without our help. He’ll never be the owner of the Patriots, or an NBA mogul. But he’s writing checks to a constellation that never minds all that jazz, so it’s all good.

Thanks to Montreal Canadien officials and the family of a boy named Anderson, dreams came true during the team’s morning skate recently. The boy’s mother lost her battle with cancer last year, but her echoes reverberate still. Because within these echoes, a promise was made from mother to son; a promise that she would arrange a meeting with him and Carey Price. The fact that she was taken from the world much too soon didn’t silence the heartbeat of that promise.

And so it was that Anderson met his boyhood idol, and in so doing they shined a light into that darkness. Price signed Anderson’s hockey sticks and hockey pucks and his hockey jersey and he gave the kid a hug. And if there is a sporting event known to man that feels as good and as compelling and as worth it as this minute and a half video of a kid and his hero? I want tickets . . front row.

To promises kept.

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(April 12, 2019)Jay Singh is a 7-Eleven store owner in Toledo Ohio who’s just trying to make ends meet. Running a convenience store ain’t the easiest gig, what with small margins and long hours and peeps trying to dig into those profits by taking your inventory free of charge.

Which is exactly what happened recently when an employee at the store informed Singh that a teenager was shoplifting. Singh went back and checked the cameras and sure enough, the kid in question had a serious case of the hot pockets. And so at this point, you wouldn’t have blamed the guy for dialing up 911. Because, yanno . . he’s got a business to run? And he’s not related to the Paisleys.

Singh did no such thing. Instead he asked the young shoplifter a simple question. Why? To which the kid replied that he was hungry, and that he was stealing food for himself and his kid brother. It was all Singh needed to hear.

The store owner went on a mini-shopping spree- collecting sausage rolls and sandwiches, chips and pizza and a 2 liter soda for the young man. Because he thought it a better idea to give him something rather than take something away by having him arrested. Because Singh’s bottom line doesn’t begin and end with cash money. Because sometimes, it really is better to give than to receive. Singh’s gesture inspired one of his customers- Cedric Bishop- to give the kid a ten spot. I mean, can you imagine being inside that moment with these people? It must have felt as if God was watering the lawn.

I like that idea just fine.

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(April 18, 2019)- Father Jean-Marc Fournier is the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade. As fire laid waste to the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, Fournier insisted on re-entering the structure in an attempt to retrieve some of the priceless artifacts housed within.

He was joined by a group of rescue workers who formed a human chain in order to save the Crown of Thorns- believed to have been worn by Jesus during the crucifixion- and the tunic of Saint Louis which was worn by King Louis IV when he brought the crown to Paris.

Fournier has a resume of doing this kind of thing. He served as a military chaplain in Afghanistan before joining the Fire Brigade. In the aftermath of the 2015 Bataclan terrorist attacks, he helped to evacuate the victims. He also gave absolution to those lost in the attacks.

Holy Week always feels quiet to me, but never more so than after this trying week. That hush of appreciation for the mysteries that might hold answers, it speaks to me this time of year. And I do hold to the idea that all is never lost.

Only misplaced.

(July 19, 2019)- The Seattle Sounders football club played more than just a game the other night when they started Bheem Goyal in goal. The eight year old is battling Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and so the Sounders- in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation- made Goyal’s dream of being a goalkeeper come true. They signed him to a contract, after which he opened things up by standing in goal for Seattle and gobbling up a shot on goal. He then exited the game between the Sounders and Dortmund to a standing ovation, receiving high fives from both sides. They don’t call it the beautiful game for nothing.

Abigail Arias — that's Officer Arias 758 to you — was sworn in by Freetown Police Chief Raymond Garivey in February.

(August 9 2019)- 7 year old Abigail Arias got to live out a dream job on Tuesday night, thanks to the peeps at the Blue Lives Matter Foundation. They organized a trip to New York City for Arias and her family so she could don the uniform of an MTA police officer. Abigail and her family also met with the NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill, and they visited other units across the city.

Arias has an incurable form of kidney cancer and so time is no longer something she or her family take for granted. Instead, they are grateful to borrow as much of the stuff as they can get their hands on. This little girl was sworn in as an honorary police officer in her hometown of Freeport, Texas back in February. And now this. And tomorrow, they’ll get to stepping on something else. Because in Abigail’s world, there is no time for hate or divisiveness and all the ugliness that comes with it.

There’s only time enough to dream.

(Abigail lost her battle in November. In a Facebook post, Chief Raymond Garivey said it would be his duty and privilege to heed the lessons taught to him by Officer Arias 758. He ended the post by saying “I love you Abigail”).

Hero Kid

(August 29, 2019)- Eight year old Christian Moore didn’t think twice when he saw his classmate Connor Crites struggling on his first day of school. He didn’t laugh, shake his head or judge Connor for having a meltdown right in front of their whole class.

Moore didn’t know Crites has autism or that he finds it extremely difficult to fit in with other kids. All Christian saw was a friend in need. So he did what any good friend would do. He sat with Connor as he cried, and then he held his hand and walked with him into school. No shaming, no blaming. Just love, in a not so random act of kindness that made all the difference in the world to one little boy.

That’s the problem with us adults. We tend to forget the power of compassion, and that it is every bit as much of a currency as all that dope we peddle to make us smarter and richer and stronger and younger. The difference with compassion is that the stuff has no expiration date. It will never leave us broke. Or empty. Or alone. And it is full of the kinds of nutrients that do a body and soul the most good. Lessons.

That picture is worth a thousand of ’em.

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September 19, 2019 Appreciating the good guys shouldn’t be a sometimes thing, reserved for national holidays or somber occasions. Because duty isn’t a sometimes thing for the men and women who put on a uniform every day. It doesn’t mean they’re infallible and it doesn’t mean their actions cannot be questioned. But to slant our opinions on every uniform is to miss out on cops like Bobby White, who became known as “the basketball cop” after video of him responding to a noise complaint in Gainesville, Florida went viral a few years back.

A white cop makes the scene where black kids are hanging out, things can go sideways in a hurry. Bobby White defused the situation by letting them know he had no problem with some kids balling. He even joined in. It wasn’t a “look at me” moment, but rather, a “look at us” moment, as in . . look at all the better outcomes we might achieve with just a little bit of understanding and some dialogue.

So the other day, The Meritorious Q sent me the “rematch” of that pickup game that happened three years ago but is still scoring all this time later. White brought Shaquille O’Neal out with him for another round, and it was such a brilliant spin move on what had already proven to be a wonderful story. Of hope. Because Shaq provides the kind of soul hug that doesn’t just light up the room he enters, it provides electricity for the entire neighborhood.

It was a valuable reminder that we don’t have to let anyone tell us what the world is supposed to look like. Because the better can happen from our rolled up sleeves to the tips of our fingers. In the quiet of our daily breaths to the pulse of a great big world that isn’t so frightfully hopeless when you let the ball bounce, and you let the kids play. Imagine the places we might find when the noise ceases to be a complaint, and becomes something else entirely.

An embrace.

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October 4, 2019 When I write these posts up, I’m always on the lookout for something I’ve never felt before. And Chloe Dorsey paid me in full with her superwoman exploits at a state park. The Georgia woman was out for a run when she spotted a deer that was stuck in a metal fence. So she bent the bars to release it . . because of course she can! After running a few hundred feet, the deer got stuck in another fence. And Imma include the video, because it speaks to the fight we need to keep on pushing and the love that fuels the try.

The kids in Wilmette, Illinois, appreciate Alec Childress.

(October 18, 2009)- Alec Childress is the great grandson of a slave. When he was fourteen years old, his father left their Mississippi cotton farm to look for work up North, leaving his son in charge. Later on, when his family joined his father, Alec had to go to work as a dishwasher in order to pay for his schooling.

Alec learned the value of hard work and a positive attitude from an early age; a mindset that served him well in his thirty six years of working construction. And just twenty eight days into his retirement, Alec decided he didn’t feel like sitting around at home so he took a job as a crossing guard in Wilmette, Illinois

For the last fourteen years, Childress has been dealing up stories and smiles to go along with his trademark “Peace, I gotcha!”. He has come to own the corner of 9th Street and Lake Avenue, turning an intersection into the heart and soul of a neighborhood.

And so for his eightieth birthday, the neighborhood said thank you by throwing him a surprise party. Yard signs greeted him with “Peace, we gotcha!” and students who had moved on to middle school and high school returned to take part in the festivities. One girl who was off to London for college made it a point to stop by to wish her favorite crossing guard a happy birthday as well. In all, more than a hundred people showed up with cookies and gifts, and plenty of hugs.

“For me to be able to experience that kind of love tells me we have more good in the world than the bad,” Childress said. “It reaffirms my knowledge and belief in people.”

Well, he started it.

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(October 25, 2019)- Milwaukee police officer Kevin Zimmerman brings more than a badge and his service issued particulars to the job every day. He also happens to bring a heart and soul whose perspective gleans best case scenarios from trying situations. As he did during a traffic stop recently when he came through for a young mother and her three children. Zimmerman had pulled over Andrella Jackson for driving with an improper registration, after which he saw that her young children were not in car seats. Jackson explained that she’d just bought the car at auction, but could not afford car seats for the kids. Zimmerman decided not to issue her a citation . . and then he bought the kids some car seats. That’s called a good day’s work, and then some.

Evoni Williams

(November 8, 2019)- And finally, we wrap things up with a Waffle House story that doesn’t involve armed robbery. It’s a story that involves doing the right thing, and a social media storm that actually worked out to everybody’s benefit. Imagine that!

Evoni Williams has this dream of going to college. She’s eighteen years old and a waitress at Waffle House, so you know she’s serious about it since the hours are unkind and the work exhausting. Dreams are circuitous in nature, and hers requires an apron and a fifth gear, to which she abides. So when an elderly gentleman came in and asked for assistance cutting his food because his hands weren’t functioning so well, Williams was on it. And so was Laura Wolf, who snapped a pic of the moment and posted it to Facebook. Because not every snapshot that goes viral is a gotcha moment. Sometimes a person just gets all wrapped up in the human effort and has to share it with the world.

“It was so busy in here, and she actually took the time to stop and hear what he had to say instead of walking past him. That just meant something to me,” Wolf told KHOU-TV.

The world noticed.

The City of La Marque, Texas awarded Williams with her own day . . .

Bonus News Item! . . . Now that is a holiday worth celebrating.

Williams was then rewarded with a $16,000 scholarship donated by Texas Southern University. And this dream of hers was coming into focus because of a human moment and a snapshot and a collective embrace that refuted the notion that nothing worthwhile ever happens inside the quiet moments.

This special gal happens to be of the opinion that she did nothing special and she said so herself. “It’s something I would do any other day,” Williams said.

Told ya.

And while I have no doubt that it’s something she would do on any other day, I’m really glad she did it on this particular day. When a bystander decided to break into the regularly scheduled life Williams was busy living, and let the world decide as to just how special a thing this was. And when the vote was in, the results were unanimous.

We won.

(November 25, 2019)- This last story is the best case scenario to an epidemic that’s had this country in a choke hold for more than two decades. It’s yet another story about a kid living on the fringe, until his feelings of isolation become too much. It’s yet another story about guns. But this story, which happened all the way back in May, has a much different ending than so many others.

Keanon Lowe was busy living the life he had imagined in January of 2017. The Gresham Oregon native was working as an offensive analyst for the San Francisco 49ers when he got a phone call that would change his life forever. Taylor Martinek, his best friend since their days at Jesuit High School, had died of an overdose after taking a lethal dose of fentanyl.

Shattered by the news, Lowe picked up the pieces by moving forward. He returned home and took a job at Parkrose High School coaching football and track and field. Last year, he became the school’s security guard as well. He was a living legend in his home state, having played wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks, but that’s not what brought him home.

Lowe saw a community in need, and this mattered more than a peach NFL gig ever could. To him. Because with some people, status is all about living right.

And so it was that Lowe was preparing his team for a district track meet when Angel Granados-Diaz walked into a fourth period government class; wearing a trench coat and carrying a shotgun. Lowe never missed a beat as he brought the student into a clench while wrestling the shot gun away from him. And then he hugged the kid, who is getting the help he needs now, instead of being immortalized as a monster.

“I told him I was there to save him . . I was there for a reason . . and that this is a life worth living . .”

It’s easy to lose our better angels to the hopeless depths of indifference and division. And then the fates bring us someone like Keanon Lowe, who turned a tragic ending into a lifetime of new beginnings. The right person in the right place so that the wrong time would never have a chance. And for one blessed day, flowers were given to the living instead of to the dead.

When faced with the prospect of just another day happening all over again, that hug was busy speaking a different language altogether. It spoke kindly to the wicked fates, two simple words uttered in the silence of a heroic embrace.

Not today.

 

 

 

Heroes Of The Week!

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Unlike most politicians and political pundits, I’m not gonna lie. I never saw Joe Biden happening to the scene the way he has over the past week. I wanted Bloomberg, I feared Bernie and I gained some respect for Buttigieg, even if he had no chance in hell of winning the nomination. See, the thing is, you can’t be civil these days. There has to be some controversy attached to your ass in order to be a viable political commodity.

Thank God for heroes, huh?

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Me Too- Aly Raisman is my hero. I follow one athlete on Twitter . . her. And with good reason, because this young woman is the voice of a movement. A human movement. The three time Olympic gold medal winner condemned the proposed settlement reached between USA Gymnastics and the survivors of Larry Nassar’s reign of horror as USA Gymnastics team doctor. Raisman says the move is a transparent attempt by the organization to push the decades long abuses “under the rug . . . hoping people will forget about it when they watch the Olympics this summer,” She calls for full disclosure by USA Gymnastics and the USOC and I stand with her on this. Her latest interview shows me why I look up to Raisman the way I do. Because she refuses to play the role of victim when tough minded, straight forward advocacy is needed.

It’s why she’s my hero. Every single day.

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I’ll take “Heroes” For 100,000, Alex- Jeopardy game show host Alex Trebek is waging the battle of his life. Stage four pancreatic cancer doesn’t make for very good odds when it comes to survival rates, yet Trebek isn’t throwing back punches for every one that lands on him. He admitted recently that his fight has thrown him into a massive depression most days, to the point where he has questioned whether it’s worth it to go on. But go on he does, and with the kind of spirit and selflessness that has defined his philanthropic efforts for decades.

Trebek recently donated $100,000 to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission; a non-profit organization that provides food, shelter and hope to those in need. He doesn’t advertise his charitable ways but I’m glad someone divulged his latest contribution. Because the world needs to feel good about itself and the people it houses. Now more than ever. And Alex, he’s doing his part. For the win.

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Brave Hearts- When you think of biker gangs, the idea of intimidation comes to mind. And this is exactly how the non-profit organization BACA wants it, sort of. Lemme ‘splain.

BACA stands for Bikers Against Child Abuse and their goal is to serve and protect the most vulnerable among us. John Paul Lily, known simply as “Chief”, created this group more than twenty years ago with the express intent of being there for abused kids. They’ll convene a meeting with the abused at which time they present them with a biker jacket complete with a BACA patch sewn onto it. Once the child is a member, this entitles them to round the clock protection from their abusers; everything from rides to and from school to showing up in court to provide a supportive presence (If the judge allows). The group does its business by the motto that “No child deserves to live in fear”. Lily and his merry band of saviors is working on it. (Thank you to the lovely Dale for this get).

The Strength in our Stars- Avey Cox has dreams that are so much bigger than her eight year old self. But one of the simplest and most cherished of these dreams was taken from her over the holidays when her father passed away. All those future moments went missing, one of which was the Daddy Daughter Dance held at Van Buren Elementary. Without that most special man in her life, the second grader would not be in attendance.

That’s when the school resource officer Nick Harvey stepped in. Once he learned of the girl’s heartbreaking tale, he reached out to her mother for permission to take little Avey to the dance. The invitation provided a much needed smile for a girl in need of just that, and the color coordinated duo danced the night away. Harvey has offered to be there for any future dances should Avey need a partner. I truly believe every star in the sky is a good deed, shone to us inside the darkest of nights. Harvey’s star shines brightly.

Murfee, a 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, won the 2020 Fair Haven mayoral race on March 3.

This last story is dedicated to Sam, who wrote books worth of blog posts on his experiences as a therapy dog over the years. His passing last week leaves a void in the lives of his family and friends and us; all the readers who came to know and love his efforts and exploits. Monika, thank you for shining his light for us to follow. And to Elsa and Stormin Norman . . we love you.

The mayoral results are in for a small Vermont town and voters are raising the (wait for it . . . ) woof. Because the new mayor of Fair Haven is a three year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Murfee. This distinguished gentleman is a certified therapy dog who visits nursing homes, grade schools and hospitals as a member of Caring Canines Therapy Dogs of Southern Vermont.

This tradition of electing a four legged animal to office is two years strong. The idea being to use the position in order to raise money for the needs of the community. What a novel concept, huh? So Murfee will lead all the fund raising campaigns with complete transparency, since he won’t be in the back pocket of any special interest groups. The dude raised almost $600 with a bake sale last year so he knows what he’s doing.

My superhero-meter was stoked to find this story, because it involves all the qualities I look for in my Friday vignettes. It’s got spirit and smarts, joy and hope. Because this seemingly innocuous tradition is all about inclusion rather than division. Indeed, according to Fair Haven’s Town Manager Joe Gunter, it appeals to people of all ages; teaching the kids about civics and reminding the older folks that liars don’t run the system unless we let them.

So to all those peeps who insist that the system has gone to the dogs?

We wish.

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes Of The Week!

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Another week, another less than satisfying noodle salad of empty calories when it comes to the trend-mill news cycle. In sports, football insists more games will mean less injuries! In politics, Bernie Sanders trashed his Fidel Castro screensaver. And Harvey Weinstein goes on a long (Rikers) Island vacation.

Well then, let’s ditch all that traffic and get to our heroes . . . .

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Selfless Savior- Here’s yet another story in which a kid is more grown up than the adult table. And this little man’s name is Robbie Gay. The eight year old resident of Palm Coast Florida is giving old dogs a new leash (I just had to) on life by adopting as many of them as his adoptive parents will allow (which is six and counting because he just had to).

Robbie spent the first six years of his life in the foster system and he relates to their plight. “He knows what it feels like not to be loved and cared for. He’s the most hopeful, optimistic, and genuinely caring kid who has absolutely no reason to be that way,” says adoptive mom, Maria.

Thanks to this incredibly resilient kid, every dog is getting its day. (Thank you to the lovely Dale for this get).

See the future for the trees- I’d like to think that incarceration has come a long way from the days of locking em up and throwing away the keys. And in some places, it really has. Lawrence Jaramillo and Joshua Melendrez served in a state-run forestry program while inmates at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. The two learned about fire prevention and fire fighting, and are now putting there knowledge to work. They opened their own forestry company, All Around Forestry, in the fall of 2019 and currently have six employees. They’re encouraging other former inmates to apply in the hopes of providing a bridge to a brand new life. Imagine a world where redemption possesses such a brilliant nobility? These guys are doing just that.

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Where everybody knows your name- Every neighborhood has that place, and for forty years Mac and Bob’s restaurant was it. And then 2018 brought hard times when two waitresses sued the company regarding its shared tips policy, which had become illegal under a federal labor law. While there had been no ill intent by the owners, the cost of the lawsuits was prohibitive and the Salem, Virginia institution announced that it would have to close its doors. Until the locals got wind of the story and decided to step up, in the form of donations, GoFundMe pages and fundraisers. Two years later, business is booming and the regulars are calling it their own personal “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Jimmy Stewart would be proud.

Gimme Shelter- Nine years ago, Dr. Kwane Stewart brought his veterinary supplies to a soup kitchen event in Modesto, California. According to the good doctor, a quarter of the homeless population owns a pet and he felt the need for treatment was evident. Ever since then, he has taken to the streets, making sure the pets he comes across are provided with checkups and vaccinations.

Stewart has treated more than 400 animals and last year he created a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for his great good work. To date, he has raised $29,000 and he was even named the GoFundMe Hero for the month of February. The coolest part of this story is that nobody was calling for this level of outreach until Stewart showed up to provide it.

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This last story takes the cake. Literally speaking.

One minute Holly Grimet was walking into a Kroger to purchase a birthday cake for her daughter and the next? She was taking home a story that will stay with her for the rest of her life. Because when she went to pay for the cake, she was told that it had already been covered. And then she discovered that a note had been left behind:

“My son Nehemiah would be 8 years old today. I wanted to remember my son by doing good to others. I hope you enjoy your child’s cake and I hope your day is special. Hold your baby a little tighter today, watch them as they play, be patient with them, kiss their sweet little hand and tell them how much you love them. Our children are such special gifts! Hope your day is beautiful. Much love from me and my angel in heaven to your family.”

Of course, this left everybody in the bakery as well as Grimet in tears. The idea that someone could lose everything and somehow find it in their heart to make the day special for a complete stranger was humbling. The mother of two was in the right place at the right time, and the advice she was given seems to have been gifted by a real life angel, seeing as how her daughter happened to be celebrating her eighth birthday.

When the universe speaks, you listen.

 

 

 

 

Heroes Of The Week! (Late-ish Edition?)

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Welp, I made the mistake of watching snippets of the democratic debate on YouTube yesterday morning, and all I have to say is Holy Kennedy! What have these people been doing with the last three and a half years given them by the voters? What’s going on is shameful, and if it prolongs this long national nightmare come November? I say we impeach everybody and just start over.

Thankfully, we do have some real heroes out there . . .

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Super Kid- Five year old Noah Woods may not look like your typical superhero and that’s plenty fine with him and his family. Because what the kid out of Bartow County, Georgia did was every bit as heroic as anything the Justice League has going on. Noah woke up to find his bedroom on fire, with the only escape route being through the second story window. Not only didn’t he panic; he managed to get his two year old sister and his dog  to safety. Then he ran next door and woke up his uncle so the rest of the family could be alerted. His actions ended up saving seven family members that night, and for his efforts he will be recognized as an honorary member of the Bartow County Fire Department today and will receive a Lifesaving Award. Fire may have destroyed their home, but Noah made sure it wouldn’t take its most prized possessions.

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Best ‘Decision’ he ever made- Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James, who has been no stranger to my Friday edition gets it. And now the inaugural class from his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio will be getting something as well: Free tuition to Kent State University, made possible through the LeBron James Family Foundation.  ” . . for me to be able to be in a position where I can give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.” James said.

He’s my MVP . . as in most valuable philanthropist.

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Who’s your Dada?- If you’re looking for the polar opposite of an ambulance chaser, his name is Karimul Haque. He is a rock star in West Bengal for the service he provides to residents of the rural villages in this northern region of India with little or no access to hospitals. Over the last nineteen years, the Bike-Ambulance-dada has delivered more than five thousand people to the hospital, free of charge. He has received the Padma Shri- a civilian medal awarded in the Republic of India, for his contributions. But if you ask me, the guy is so much better when it comes to giving.

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Little things mean the most- When I think about how the past three and a half years were the result of some big picture special effects, created out of wrongheaded smarts and a maddening hubris . . I realize the missing equation is what has capsized our boat: Heart. Enter two year old Cohen Sheely who toddled things back to that foreign concept recently with a simple hug. It happened during a routine pizza delivery when Ryan Catterson dropped off a pizza to the Sheely residence and got a hug from Cohen in return. Turns out, Catterson had recently lost his teenage daughter and this hug meant more than words could say. All those peeps in power behaving like two year olds should look to Cohen for pointers. Just saying . . .

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I often write about how the very best things are happening on the regular inside the quiet. This doesn’t mean to say that the quiet is some vapid, toothless corner of a long forgotten world, because it ain’t. The quiet I refer to has chops the size of Uluru, and it’s been going on for an even longer time than that. And so while the talking heads generate tinder-like swipes of the left and right with their pejorative-laden slings and poisonous arrows, Natalie Reilly is buying herself karma credits . . wholesale.

Four years ago, Natalie and her mother began writing love notes to first responders. It was their small way of saying thank you to the peeps who put it all on the line every single day in order to keep us safe. When she lost her mother to cancer, the notes helped to maintain the connection for Natalie. This mystical hand clasp helped create Nothing But Love Notes– an organization dedicated to writing thank you cards to police officers and firefighters. Twenty thousand cards strong, Natalie is just getting started.

And it’s nice to read a story where good things happen to people who do good things. Natalie’s world has opened into a cosmic bloom she never saw coming; in the form of a community of like minded souls who believe in the healing qualities of giving something rather than asking for it. She found love too, when one of the recipients of her goodwill mission reached out to her and hello turned into a string of tomorrows.

I vote for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lie by any other name is still bullshit

Nietzsche once said the visionary lies to himself while the liar only lies to others. And I have to believe he would’ve gotten a kick out of the current state of a world he once wrote was too hung up on morals.

No worries, Fred. It was just a phase.

George Washington could not tell a lie, Nixon insisted he did not tell a lie, Clinton never lied about weed or women, and the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has applied a four letter Warhol manifesto to the as defined three letter ‘assertion believed to be false’. And while many of his followers regale in this new age hegemony, where lies are currency and feelings be damned, the truth of the matter is their guy ain’t the father of fib. He’s just the latest slouch to rent its effete epidemiology.

And yes, politics is easy pickings since the rule of every practical voter is to choose the person who lies least. Unless you’re a MAGA member, in which case lies are akin to medals.

Lying is everywhere, and it’s not simply an acceptable endeavor, it has become monetized. From YouTube urban legend makers to parents who misplaced their kids and are conducting their search for the abductors in Hawaii . . . lies are that most valuable social commodity; they are magnets to the trending cycle. And so what if you can’t prove a theory or produce your children for authorities? The empty calories will still make you rich!

In sports, the bottom line is lie-proof. College basketball coaches like Roy Williams lie about academics and get away with it until they stop winning. College football coaches like Mel Tucker rail on about how players should be loyal to their commitment to a university and then they hightail it to another school for a bigger payday. Pete Rose wants to be in the Hall of Fame because he insists his fifteen year long lie was less criminal than steroids and sign stealing. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that the health of his players is most important while pushing for more games.

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And the lying liars of the sports world have a new champion this week. Enter Jim Crane; owner of the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2017 by hook and crook and garbage cans. The Astros held a press conference the other day in which they did something that was previously thought to be impossible; they looked worse for it. Crane insisted the elaborate system his team utilized in order to gain an advantage “did not impact the game,” and then a minute later he said  . . with a straight face, mind you “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game . . .” Well . . now that we have that straight.

And as much as I love my Yankees, Brian Cashman has to chill with all the indignant jabs he’s throwing at Houston. Because Cash was plenty okay with signing drug cheats like A-Rod and Robinson Cano and Roget Clemens once upon a time. And no, those lies were not okay because they were our lies. For fuck’s sake, that’s why we find ourselves at this intersection of wrong and wronger.

History proves that lying has always proven more worth it than not. Herodotus was the chronicler of the Persian Empire who was born in a time before fact checking became a job description. And no . . . Nero didn’t start the fire. Columbus never should have had a day to begin with and Ben Franklin dabbled in fake news in order to get the French to help us tag team the Brits off American soil. Of course, not all lies are created equal . . and yes, expediency in the name of freedom is dressed in a sweet and worthwhile rind. Unfortunately, history has engaged a more insidious byproduct as a result of all this lying. It has created an alibi.

We live in the age of reality shows that have absolutely nothing to do with reality and the news is oftentimes less reliable than a makeshift subway station food stand. So when Debbie Mazar makes misleading claims about losing weight and Jussie Smolett makes claims that mislead us regarding loser Magats, we don’t even flinch. So attuned are we to the prevailing winds of small change, that lies are an expected device. Makes you wistful for the good old days when tobacco companies recommended smoking for better health and LBJ warned our parents that a vote for Goldwater was a vote for nuclear annihilation.

I’d like to think this too shall pass, but maybe I’m just lying to myself.

 

 

 

Heroes Of The Week!

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Another week, another half dozen candidates trimmed from a democratic primary season that is beginning to look a lot like a Poirot whodunit. You can imagine my surprise when I received a call from DNC chairman Tom Perez informing me that I should drop out of the race . . since I wasn’t even aware I was in the race. On the bright side, I nabbed thirty five thousand votes, which placed me fourth.

And now your Heroes . . . .

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Do the Math- Remember as a kid when you used to rail on about how useless math was going to be when you got out in the real world? And then you got out  in the real world and there were stock options and mortgage payments and kids allowances to consider? Well, a family owned Bronx deli is actually bringing the fun back to math (for the first time) with a little game they play with their customers. Solve a math problem and you have five seconds to grab anything in the shop . . . free of charge.

Ahmed Alwan has been working at Lucky Candy since he was thirteen years old. Now twenty and studying at Bronx Community College, he wants to be a pharmacist some day. He came up with the math quiz and began broadcasting it on Tik Tok and Instagram, where it has since gone viral. He pays for everything out of his own pocket, which is nothing new to the kid. He’s been known to give his customers food and house supplies on credit, and he’ll bring coffee and muffins to the homeless. His goal is to “inspire others to be kindhearted”.

He’s living his best life, and passing it on.

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Bringing koala to a gray world- The 9th Brigade of the Australian Army has been putting in the yeoman’s work on the other side of the world in fighting the brush fires that have laid waste to New South Wales for more than half a year. With heavy rainfall helping to extinguish the ongoing fires, these peeps ain’t resting just yet.

They have proven every bit as unrelenting as the firestorm they’ve been fighting since last summer: clearing debris, hosting benefits  cleaning up residential properties and just listening to their affected neighbors. And with their ‘down time’, they’ve taken to bottle feeding koalas at the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills.

No rest for the mighty, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A Super save- If there is one thing I truly abhor, it’s the criminally insane amount of food that goes wasted in this country. There’s no excuse for such a thing to happen in such a forward thinking place as ours. According to the US Department of Agriculture, we waste more than $160 billion dollars in food every year.

NFL Green, in partnership with Centerplate and Food Rescue US made certain that the Super Bowl would be different. These organizations took part in a massive collaborative goodwill mission to make sure all that big game haste did not go to waste.  Thanks to these folks, more than 30,000 pounds of unused food was donated to local shelters throughout Southern Florida, helping to feed more than 20,000 people.

There’s a lot of things we may never solve, but this is proof that hunger shouldn’t be one of them.

Game Winner- Inside the time of Howard Cosell and the Wide World of Sports, the Harlem Globetrotters were once considered the Elvis five of the hardwood. And I know I’m dating myself with those references, but hell . .  doing good is a timeless thing, and the Globetrotters showed us they still got plenty of game recently when they helped bring a military mama and her family together. Sergeant DeAndrea Proctor has been deployed in Kuwait for the past seven months. And then an invitation to take a picture with the sultans of slam turned into a family reunion. (Check out the video here).

Still winning after all these years.

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There’s no kitschy headline for this last story, because it’s the story of our country’s failed war on drugs. Kevin Simmers knows the brutal truths of this epic fail in the most deeply personal way. A decorated narcotics officer in Hagerstown, Maryland, he once took great pride in locking up drug offenders. “If they just had a pipe—fine,” he said. “At the end of the night, I wanted to have an arrest . . .”

An Air Force veteran and self proclaimed hard ass, Simmers was all in on the Reagan era philosophy of meting out harsh punishment to drug offenders. And then came the day when his teenage daughter Brooke told him she was addicted to opioid pain pills and had taken to selling her body in order to feed her habit. One year and six failed rehabs later, Simmers took a drastic step and had his daughter arrested. It is a decision he still regrets.

On April 4th, 2015, Brooke Simmers was released from incarceration. She was nineteen years old with a new lease on life. The bright light she had shone so brightly while serving her time provided the hope that her father had been seeking since that fateful morning two years earlier. She talked about opening a sober-living house for women and her father made her a deal; on the one year anniversary of her sobriety, they would do just that, together. Sadly, that day would never come because a little more than a week later on April 14th, Brooke’s lifeless body was found in a church parking lot in the backseat of her red Volkswagen Beetle.

For the next few years, Simmers tried turning back time on himself while in the throes of overwhelming grief. He knew his role and he owned it, and if not for his daughter’s dream, he might very well have followed her out of this world. But he stayed put, and in 2018 he opened Brooke’s House- a sober-living house in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Brooke Simmers never got to see the lives that will be impacted in a positive way by the house her father built. But her lesson will prove far mightier than a failed political slogan out of another era. Two simple words that every parent must heed.

Just listen.