Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Friend of a Friend

In the past, that phrase always brought to mind another way to pass on gossip. You know. "A friend of a friend told me he saw the Mayor doing something illegal but HIS friend of a friend said no one could prove it." Well, I've discovered a new definition: someone who is kind...just because it's the right thing to do.

I started a project for the kids in the afternoon. Our goal: to get a postcard from every state. I thought this would be a good way to teach them where the states are located, map reading skills, compass points and the fact there is a big country out there they can explore. Plus kids always like receiving mail. I e-mailed family and friends, explaining the project and asking if they could help. Ironically, the kids' "best friend" has come from a friend of a friend. When a friend found out what I was up to, she said her niece had done the same thing and her class had been all but adopted by a trucker named Jim. Although she'd never met Jim, they played scrabble online. I took this to mean he seemed sane and had a well rounded vocabulary.

The kids have dubbed him "Our friend Jim the Trucker"...their hero.

It seemed like a simple request: send a postcard to kids. It's something I'd do in a heartbeat. But then you have to factor in purchasing a card, getting postage for it and addressing it. Adding a message is extra. Some of my family and closest friends, the ones I just KNEW I could count on, turned out to be either too busy or too forgetful. Not Jim. He doesn't just send cards, he writes notes to let us know where he's going next. Due to his generosity, the kids are truly learning about the best of America...and I don't just mean where each state is located. So far I think Jim has sent cards from 12 states...but I haven't checked today's mail yet.

Jim is teaching them the importance of "A Simple Act of Kindness".

That concept, which seems so natural to me, is often foreign to some of the kids I work with. After all, my Mom has a bumper sticker on her car that reads, "Today I will commit one Random Act of Kindness." We were raised to be considerate and helpful just because it was the right thing to do. Many of these kids come from homes where it's every person for him/herself...and their parents aren't cheerleaders. Many of the parents are AWOL or might as well be considering they believe "birthing" the kid was all that was required of them. So my small contribution to their lives has been to try and show them, by example, that being considerate is cool. Jim has become the exclamation point on that theory.

This weekend we sent to see the movie "Evan Almighty". The movie's theme is the same as our project: random acts of kindness make the world go round while making it a better place. If you haven't seen the movie yet, still featuring Morgan Freeman as God, it's a good way to recharge your human battery. The premise is simply: God asks a newly elected Senator to build an ark. The senator, of course, balks...he's too new to send the idea over to let it die in committee. So he does and his life changes. There was a line in the movie that hit me between the eyes as well, especially since I've been questioning God, not Morgan Freeman, about my career. The wife in the movie is upset about her husband turning into a modern day Noah and complains to the waiter...who of course, is God. And God says to her,"If you ask God for patience, does he give it to you? No, He puts you in a situation for you to learn patience." The gist of the conversation is that we ask God for something with a preconceived idea of what the reply should be and when it doesn't arrive, we think God isn't listening. Nope, it's us. Ask a question, be open minded about the reply. At the end, the Senator asks God why did the Ark idea work. And God scribbles in the dirt, "ARK...act of random kindness."

So thanks to Jim I'm proving that anyone can make a difference...and that thank you notes are important, because we sent him one.

And God, your proxy Morgan Freeman made a good point on your behalf. Now I understand your answer to my question. Kindness has a ripple effect. Guess I get to be a stone skipping across the water.


Bonnie said...

:-) my sisters and I have a little game called "pass it on". when someone needs help we help and often they will want to pay us in some form and we just say "pass it on". The next person that asks for your help you do it and tell them to pass it on and that way one good deed keeps going and going and going...sometimes they even come back to us when we really need help. Let's keep "passing it on". my husband gets a chuckle out of me trying to do one good deed a day, but just think of how nice it would be if everyone did just one good deed every day.

James said...

You have no idea how much your blog means to me. I have NOT always been one to do the right thing, although I have my moments. More often than not, I'm trying to figure out how to correct some of the many mistakes in my life and living with the ones I know I can never fix. I'm the type of person who COULD have been much more than I am, and have repeatedly missed opportunity after opportunity. Success is a relative term, and I chose a path that hasn't led to any wealth of the monetary kind, but then money never seemed that important to me. Making a difference in other people's lives, however, THAT'S a success worth more than anything money can buy.

hope said...

Ah, that is what is wrong with our world: we tagged "worthwhile" with a dollar figure.

I'll never get rich doing what I do either...after all, we're called "Public servants" for a reason. :)

The cool thing about life is that, no matter how many times you mess up, there's always a chance to try again. So I'm a sentimental sap. :)

Thanks to both of you for helping these kids have something to look forward to.