Looking at Life Differently….

Once again, my apologies. Work has been CRAZY. I’m still working on trying to find a good news story for the blog. I know they are happening, they just are sometimes hard to find (because few media outlets are reporting them :p).

In the meantime, I thought it might be nice to talk a bit about how important it is to recognize at least one “good news” story in our own lives each day— and embrace it.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday problems. Some of them, such as failing health and financial difficulties, are huge. Others are quite small, but still have significant impact. Maddening traffic jams and rude strangers can definitely ruin someone’s day.

But there are ways to cope.

I’ve had a few too many small problems (no biggies, thank goodness) in the past few days. Mis-communications at work, longer-than-normal traffic commutes (on a GOOD day, it takes me 45 minutes to travel six miles… yesterday it took me an hour :p), and really pesky little things: like dropping a dish and breaking it… or spilling water all over a newly polished wood table.

Throw in the fact that I have never been accused of being a very patient person ;), and that adds up to quite a bit of frustration by the end of the day.

I had a wonderful reminder yesterday though, that *I* have the power to change that. Simply by shifting perspective.

My son is five. He’s active. And he’s hilarious. 🙂 Yesterday when we got home, he immediately told me he wanted to go back outside. I was quite annoyed by my extra long commute caused by sheets of rain— so I thought he was nuts to want to go back out into it. But without even batting an eye, he scrambled to put on his boots and proceeded to seek out EVERY mud puddle in the backyard… and encouraged me to join him. After watching him for a minute or so, I did. We both got soaked. And I didn’t care. In fact, I was laughing the whole time.

That’s a good news story. One I really needed this morning. When I slept through my alarm and rushed to my closet only to find my clothes balled up on the floor because the cat had gotten to them last night… I almost lost it. But then I remembered I had a pile of muddy clothes already loaded in the washer, and that made me smile.

(Yes, I was late to work. But in the scheme of things, that was okay.)

I have to remind myself all the time: the “big” good news stories are great, because they can renew our faith in people. But really— good news can also be as simple as a change in perspective.

An exercise: the next time someone cuts you off on the freeway, think about something good that happened this past weekend. It could be something as simple as a pleasant conversation you had with your neighbor, or that quiet moment you had to yourself as you read the paper and drank coffee on Sunday morning. Lives don’t always have to be saved in order to bring a smile to your face.

Although I have to admit, heroes are a great pick-me-up. 😉

More heroes soon. 🙂

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Nine Lives, Minus Two

I have to admit that the next story is somewhat personal for me, because it describes almost *exactly* how one of my two cats came into my life.

So please bear with me as I describe this act of kindness for a little kitten who happened to be spotted by the right person at the right time. I love the story, because it shows how several people made the conscious choice to put their Friday night on hold… to save a stray animal.

An employee with a District Attorney’s office in Pennsylvania walked out of her work building for the day, when she spotted a stray kitten run past her, onto a busy street.

“When I saw him, I thought to myself, we just have to have a happy ending tonight,” Cathie Abookire later told a reporter.

The kitten ran into (thankfully) stopped traffic, and found what it probably thought was a safe hiding spot… immediately in front of the wheel of a car waiting at a traffic light.

Abookire and another DA employee ran into the street and pounded on the window of the car, urging the driver not to go when the light turned green. As they did this, the kitten ran away to a parked car— and promptly crawled up into the car’s engine.

Not the best hiding spot. 😉

The parked vehicle happened to have a Judicial District parking permit and a phone number, so Abookire called the number. She eventually hooked up with the car’s owner and explained the situation.

The owner, Ray McIver, came to the scene and opened up the hood. And ASPCA workers were eventually able to coax the kitten out of the engine.

All of this happened over the span of three hours. Not the way that most people would want to spend their Friday evening– especially after a long day at work. But the rescuers of Turbo the kitten (named so by her heroes) decided it was time well spent.

“Without all the right people – big hearted people – well, all the right things had to happen,” Abookire later said.

The kitten, by the way, is doing well. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, this is amazingly similar to how I discovered my cat. She was less than four weeks old when a cameraman at my station discovered her in our station’s parking lot… which was surrounded by three very busy roads, and a highway.

The cameraman spotted her and tried to catch her, but she made her way into his vehicle’s engine. He practically took the engine apart trying to get to her, and brought her inside.

She managed to draw quite a crowd in our news room. She was so tiny her eyes had just barely opened, and she was shivering from fright.

I held her in the palm of my hand (she was that tiny), where she promptly curled up and fell asleep. I was hooked. 😉

She’s now HUGE. And happy. And still around, eleven years later. 🙂

Erasing Hate

Sometimes the simplest act of kindness can bring the greatest joy.

This past weekend in Revere, Massachusetts, some unidentified vandals spray-painted messages of hate on the B’Nai Israel synagogue. Bright red hateful words and symbols confronted the synagogue’s members the next day as they made their way to their service and a breakfast.

Marilyn Dorfman was horrified.

“It was really sickening,” she told Boston TV station WBZ-TV. “The information on the kitchen door also was very reminiscent of things that you saw in concentration camps in Nazi Germany.”

She and other members tried to push away the pain as they went inside for their service.

When they came out afterwards, an unidentified man was just finishing up painting over the offensive markings. No one had called him. He had just shown up with paint that was amazingly close to the beige color of the walls— and went to work.

Ira Dorfman says he tried to get the man’s name. “He wouldn’t tell me. I said ‘May I take your picture?’ And he said, ‘You can’t.'”

The man finished the job, packed up his supplies, and drove away.

Members say the gesture was so moving, it made up for the hateful words they had seen on their way in that morning.

Still no word on the identity of the mysterious stranger.

Passing the Flying Money "Test"

Today’s story is short, but sweet. 🙂 Another example of how someone’s faith in humanity was restored by several people stepping forward to help someone they didn’t know.

The city of Torrance, California is one of the southernmost cities in Los Angeles county (as well as one of the county’s largest). It is part of the huge metroplex that makes up what locals call the Southland.

And as an incident last month shows, the city is also filled with people who do the right thing.

70-year-old Ludwig Geier went to his local bank and withdrew several thousands of dollars in cash. He held a thick envelope as he left the building.

When he walked outside, he stumbled and fell. More than 200 bills flew out of the envelope, and started swirling around the parking lot and into the street. Ludwig says he couldn’t possibly have retrieved the money because he was wearing flip-flops and couldn’t move very quickly.

But he didn’t have to worry, because about a dozen bystanders started chasing the quickly-moving bills… and brought them back to him as they caught it.

Geier was touched. He says those who helped him retrieve his money were from all walks of life— ranging from kids to adults, people from various races, seemingly from all walks of life. He was able to get back 96% of the money he’d lost.

“I can only say I’m going to put a prayer out for them,” Geier told the Torrance Daily Breeze. “If I could get them together, I’d buy them dinner and drinks.”

Compassion over Greed

This is another story from New York city, taking place in the heart of midtown. It’s a story of not just one, but two people who each had a clear opportunity to take advantage of a situation. Instead, they didn’t think twice about doing the right thing.

And they restored a woman’s faith in humanity in the process.

Earlier this week, 27-year-old Ken Roller stopped by his local corner coffee cart and ordered his usual drink. While he waited, he glanced over at a newspaper box next to the cart and spotted a $100 bill sitting on top of it. Without even a second thought, he handed it over to cart operator, Emad Youssef, and told him that the bill was obviously lost.

“I trust him. I see him every day,” Roller told the Daily News matter-of-factly about Youssef. “He remembers my coffee order.”

And as for the chances of someone coming back to claim the cash, Roller said, “A hundred dollars is a lot of money. I figured whoever lost it was definitely going to come back for it.”

The 26-year-old Youssef held onto the bill until he saw another regular customer, 40-year-old Rochelle Myers, the next day. She talked about how she had lost $100 the day before… money she was planning to use to buy a new cell phone. She was sure that someone had gone into her wallet at some point during the day and had stolen it.

So you can imagine her surprise when Youssef handed over the bill.

She repaid Youssef and Roller by giving them each a bouquet of flowers, and a huge hug.

“We always think the worst, and I thought the worst immediately, but now my faith is really restored in people,” she said.

An interesting footnote: The journalist who reported this story also referred to a study out of Columbia University that took place in 2007. As part of an experiment to see how honest New Yorkers are, researchers dropped wallets in various places across the city of New York. 82% of them were returned to their owners. 🙂

Rushing to Help a Stranger

A warning, this story has a very bittersweet ending…. but I believe it still has the power to renew one’s faith in humanity.

Many New Yorkers get a bad rap. A lot of people point to the huge city as a place where people have lost their concern for their fellow man. A place where people won’t stop to help another person in trouble.

About thirty people blew that perception out of the water just this past week.

On Thursday, Donnette Sanz left her desk at the New York Police Department to head out to lunch. Sanz normally served as a traffic agent with the department— directing traffic and issuing parking tickets— but had been placed on administrative duty when she became pregnant. As of last week, she was seven months along.

She walked out of the Bronx office and waited for the light at one of the busiest intersections in the borough. The light changed. She started to cross.

She didn’t notice a van barreling toward the intersection. The van’s driver would later say that his brakes failed. And police reports would indicate that the brakes had indeed deteriorated to the point that the van was unsafe to drive. The driver says he saw Sanz but couldn’t stop.

The impact threw Sanz in front of a moving yellow school bus (no children were inside). And she became pinned underneath.

The crowd immediately rushed into action. Witnesses say that people converged from all directions and just started trying to lift the school bus. In all, it took about thirty people to make the superhuman effort. They eventually lifted the 5-ton bus off of Sanz, and someone pulled her out. She was still alive.

An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where doctors performed a C-section. Little Sean weighed only 3 pounds, 6 ounces, but doctors say he is showing signs of improvement.

Donette was alive for the birth. But passed away about an hour later.

Still, her family says they are grateful to those who rushed to help her. While the loss of Donnette is great— without the quick action of people who didn’t even know her, the family also would have lost Sean.

The Power of Thanks

As promised, this is a story as told to me by my friend— who I mention in the previous post:

“Three months ago, I was in Dallas in a hotel, where I saw the name tag of a former student of mine, taking a course that I taught on the internet. I approached her and confirmed that I indeed had recognized the correct person.

I asked her about my course. She expressed delight in what she had learned but especially the final assignment in urban issues that I had required. It was to express thankfulness to her city for mediating goodness and grace in some symbolic way. Because she works at a ‘rescue mission’ for the homeless, she decided to walk the streets of the worst section of her city and pray God’s grace and kindness in front of every home that she passed. According to her, her husband was very upset that she would risk walking in the hood, but she did so anyway.

Then she decided she needed to express thanks and pray for the top city administrators who bear the burden of such communities, and requested an appointment with the mayor. His secretary, after much hassle conceded her 5 minutes. When she arrived, she was ushered into his office and thanked him for his services to the community. She said that he was shocked, in that generally people come at him with complaints or demands. Suddenly his apprehension turned into warmth. As she volunteered for pray for God’s strength in his many difficult responsibilities, he suggested that his staff join him for the prayer. Soon word got out and the Chief of Police wanted a similar time with her . . .and the superintendent of schools. They were all astonished that a regular citizen should care for each of them in this way.

She said that a strange turn has occurred since then, concerning the relationship of the mission to the community. Previously what had been a detached, often confrontative relationship between the city and the mission, now became one of mutual support and interest, with government officials now considering the mission a friendly ally, with benefits to both. And just that week, the mayor had called her to ask for special prayer for his sick wife.”