The 9 Nanas A Story of Compassion
In The Beginning
It is rather easy to find the negatives in life. It seems, at times, that we are so inundated with negatives, that it is almost impossible to smell the roses on any given day. The news headlines scream of injustices and corrupt morals; the online chat rooms overflow with stories of crime and debasement. Even in our own personal lives it can be overwhelming as bills increase, prices increase and anxieties keep pace with it all.
So when a feel-good story finally surfaces from the muck and mire of everyday living, it feels as though someone should shout it from the mountaintops and spray paint it on every freeway overpass for all to see and absorb.
One such feel-good story recently arose from West Tennessee where nine women, ranging in age from 54 to 72, have quietly made the world a better place for the past thirty-five years.
It began long ago during a weekly card game among the nine friends. They were reminiscing about the grandparents of four of the members. The grandmother, MaMaw, would read in the newspaper that someone had died and she would bake a pound cake for the surviving family, just a little something to bring a ray of happiness to them.
That turned out to be the inspiration that kick-started a rather remarkable story of unselfish community service.
From Small Plans Grow Huge Results
The nine ladies, or “The 9 Nanas,” as they prefer to be called, began saving money by doing their own laundry. The first month they had saved $400 between the nine of them and then they used that money to help the needy. They would listen to conversations at the beauty shop or the grocery store, and when they heard about someone who needed help, they would use the money they had saved to provide assistance. It could be paying a utility bill or buying clothes for some children, whatever was needed they tried to anonymously provide. With each gift they left a note that said “Somebody loves you” and they would also include a pound cake in loving memory of their grandmother.
Their enterprise grew over the years but nobody knew of their efforts outside the group of nine. In the past thirty-five years they have gotten up early in the morning, prepared bakery goods, run their rounds and then gone on with their lives, unbeknownst even to their husbands. The anonymity ended five years ago when suspicious husbands confronted the group and demanded to know why there were unexplained withdrawals from checking and savings accounts.
When told the reason for the expenditures the husbands reacted in a way none of the 9 Nanas could have predicted: they asked if they could help.
Today, thirty-five years after the first act of kindness, nearly $900,000 have been donated by the group to help those in need.
Today and Beyond
Today, encouraged by the support of their families, they are selling “MaMaw Ruth’s pound cakes online and receive over one-hundred orders daily. They have moved their baking operation out of their own kitchens into a commercial kitchen of a restaurant owned by one of their sons. They are celebrating, in August, the second annual “Happiness Happens Month” at which time they will send tokens of appreciation to one person in each state who has made a difference in their own community.
Mary Ellen, one of the founding members, explains it this way: “Not everyone is as lucky as we were to have MaMaw and PaPaw to take care of them. So this is our way of giving back. We want people to know that someone out there cares enough to do something. We want to make sure that happiness happens.”
Their website can be found at www.Happiness-Happens.com.
I’m not sure what blows me away more, the acts of kindness done by this group or the fact that they kept this a secret for so many years because they did not want any notoriety. Both acts beautifully reflect all that is good about the human experience.
We each have so much good in us. We each have the capability to bring happiness into the lives of others. Why, then, does a story such as the one above seem to be so remarkable? If each of us is capable of similar acts of kindness, why does it seem so rare when such an act is actually done?
Times are tough and it seems only natural that we be concerned for our own well-being. We have mortgages to pay, creditors to keep satisfied, families to provide for and the worries mount daily. It is so very hard to see beyond our own escalating problems and to turn our attention to the problems of others. And yet…….
And yet, if we do not turn the tide then who will? It seems to this observer of humanity that as a civilization we are heading in the wrong direction. Instead of cowering within our own protective shelter, hoping that things will get better, and shunning personal interaction with others, we might be better served to reach out to each other in the spirit of community. Instead of waiting for someone to help us, why don’t we take it upon ourselves to help others?
As the 9 Nanas instinctively understand, acts of kindness are not done for recognition; they are done, simply, to help someone else. What they have undoubtedly discovered, however, is that by reaching out to others with no hope for reward, they were in fact rewarded. A simple act of kindness not only helps the recipient but also the giver. When we help someone less fortunate we are taking our minds off of our own problems and that is a benefit that will have very positive results for all concerned.
These remarkable ladies understand, all too well, that when you are a breeding ground for positive words and actions, you will give birth to more positive words and actions. This writer calls this dynamic PIPO….positive in, positive out.
My poem about H.O.W.
One Final Note
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this August, in honor of “Happiness Happens Month,” everyone who reads this article does one act of kindness for someone in need? Hundreds of random acts of humanness spreading out around the world….who knows how many additional acts would be generated?
Long journeys begin with a single step! How about it? Put on your walking shoes and let’s begin that journey together in August. Let’s rock this world with positive actions and thoughts. Let’s just PIPO the hell out of the world!
Are you with me?
One way to help out and make a difference is to join us in H.O.W....a grassroots movement of writers and concerned citizens who want to make this world a better place. You can join us on Facebook here and on our website here.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."