Gifts Of Light In Life's Darkest Hours
The Kindness Of Strangers
By Rena Dictor LeBlanc
The outpouring of volunteers from all over the country who helped victims of the devastating fires that swept California communities reminds me of the gifts of light I've known in life's darkest hours.
I treasure a cache of memories about strangers who have reached out to me and to other people I've known in acts of compassion.
It was the worst time of my life. My husband had just died, and I was overwhelmed with the pain of my loss. There was an outpouring of love and help from family and friends. But, the most unlikely gift, and one I'll never forget, came from a stranger.
A Stranger's Gift
I had to go on with the mundane tasks of living, even arranging to get my septic tank cleaned. When the owner of the company we had been using learned that my husband had died he insisted there would be no charge for cleaning the tank this time. His offer took me by surprise. He was a stranger reaching out to comfort me in the only way he could. It was the most outlandish "gift" I've ever received. His kindness to someone he'd never met warmed my heart.
My friend Laurie Golden, told me about the time she was a near-penniless college student, walking around with holes in the bottom of her only pair of ragged shoes, with melting ice seeping through. One day she returned to her small dormitory room to find someone had left her a pair of shoes. They even were the right size. She never learned the identity of the benevolent intruder. But, that anonymous act of caring deeply touched her soul.
Alone In The World
Juliet Snowden was a stranger when she volunteered to visit Geneva Hariston in a nursing home. The elderly widow was pretty much alone in the world. It didn't matter that Juliet was a 28-year-old aspiring screenwriter who was white, and Geneva was an 89-year-old retired maid who was African American.
This odd couple became like family. Juliet's visits became the high point of Geneva's life for almost three years until she died.
Red Cross Disaster Services
The Red Cross had 1,600 volunteers helping victims of the fires in San Diego, according to Steve Bayer. He's a 73-year-old volunteer who, for ten years, has been part of the organization's Disaster Services Human Resources team. He travels the country to help out.
"The volunteers run shelters, keep people out of harms way, and make sure victims have food," Steve said. "There are so many heroes, people who do things that are above and beyond." Why does Steve do it? He explained, "It's payback time for having a good life."
According to Payton Roberts, who is a spokesperson for the Red Cross in San Diego and a volunteer, "Becoming a trained American Red Cross volunteer is a very tangible way of holding someone's hand and getting them to the other side of their disaster." She said, "If people feel that tugging to do good we urge them to become Red Cross volunteers by going to http://www.redcross.org/, enter their zip code, and find their local chapter.
Rabbi Yosef Brod, of the Chabad sect, did his part to help firefighters by remaining at a 75-acre Jewish camp called Camp Gan Israel in the San Bernardino Mountains. The camp, which had been evacuated, was in an area where fire charred nearly 13,000 acres. Rabbi Brod kept the camp open providing food and shelter for firefighters, some of whom had been working 72-hours shifts.
Angels All Over
As Red Cross volunteer Steve Bayer put it, "There are angels all over."
Once you've become the recipient of the kindness of strangers, I believe you're more likely to become a perpetrator.
Has it happened to you?
Previously published on Eons.com
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