Ed. note: The following was originally published as part of the St. George News “Thanksgiving 2016” series.
SOUTHERN UTAH — Whether it’s a free cup of coffee for the next person in line or baby pillow for a frazzled new mother at the end of her rope, when good people go out of their way – maybe even out of their professional or personal comfort zone – to help strangers, rarely are they seeking a return favor. And in many of these cases, “thank you” isn’t necessary.
At the end of October, St. George News ran an article about Timothy Gee, an Intermountain Life Flight and critical care nurse who received an injury that could possibly threaten his livelihood.
RoseAnn Lundin Thompson of St. George left a comment on the article, which started: “This man is my hero and he probably doesn’t even know it.”
Thompson told St. George News that Gee was the nurse on her daughter’s flight to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. The transport was a result of pneumonia complicated by Type 1 diabetes.
“When we left … I knew she was really sick,” Thompson said, “but I don’t think I quite understood how sick she really was until we got (to Salt Lake). I remember when we got there, I still kept trying to tell myself everything would be fine. We walked into a room where the doctors and nurses were waiting for us, and I wasn’t expecting it to be such a full room. There were a lot of people there. It scared me, and the reality hit.”
Thompson said at that point she stepped out in the hall and “fell apart.”
“I couldn’t function anymore,” she said.
When Gee came out and was getting ready to leave, Thompson said, he stopped and comforted her and gave her a hug.
“I was all by myself,” Thompson said. “I can remember thinking he was my only connection to home just because he brought me from home, and I was grateful. I didn’t even remember his name until I saw the article that you posted.”
Based on other comments on the article, this is just the type of person Gee is, and while he may not mind hearing it, he probably wasn’t looking for a “thank you” that day.
Offering a hug to every parent who is struggling probably isn’t in the scope of his professional duties. More realistically, he saw a mother who was alone, scared and in a special time of need that day, and he felt compelled to go the extra mile, to offer an extra bit of kindness.
Whatever it was, these unsolicited random acts of kindness can have a profound impact, both on the giver and the receiver.
The kindness of strangers
In December 2015, St. George News was contacted by a donor who wished to remain anonymous but wanted to pay for random strangers’ groceries. The results were powerful.
All of these people who were recipients of this donor’s kindness were anticipating going to that store to pay for their groceries. They weren’t standing outside panhandling. But some of their reactions seemed to imply that they might have been struggling financially, and this small act made a big difference.
In her comment on the article about Gee, Thompson called his actions that day “service in our greatest time of need.”
Antares Nicorvo of Cedar City understands this. She told St. George News there was a time not too long ago when she was working three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Since she didn’t have a vehicle, Nicorvo had to walk several miles on a regular basis to get to all of her jobs.
“It was starting to get really cold out,” she said, “snowing and raining most nights.”
It got to the point that Nicorvo was using duct tape to keep her shoes from falling apart. One night, she came home to find new shoes, a jacket and a $30 Wal-Mart gift card, all of which she said she suspected came from one of her employers. However, there was no note.
“Might not sound like a lot,” Nicorvo said, “but it was amazing.”
Cedar City resident Mark Cockrill knows what it’s like being on the other end. The recipients of his generosity weren’t necessarily strangers either, but when he heard they were in a time of need, he knew what he wanted to do.
“I knew them a long time ago,” Cockrill said of the couple that lives in Pahrump, Nevada.
When Cockrill heard the man was confined to a wheelchair and his wife wasn’t doing very well either and they had two very large dogs to get to the vet, he decided to give them one of his vehicles.
“I just happened to have a ‘92 GMC extended cab that ran great I thought would fit their needs perfectly,” he said. “At the time I had several cars and trucks – like seven of them. And with just my wife and I, why did we need so many?”
Cockrill called them to tell them if they could find a way to pick it up, it was theirs.
“Felt good to help them,” he said.
Paying it forward
While not necessarily a prerequisite for random kindness, some people believe that even though they don’t need to hear a “thank you,” the recipient will hopefully pay that kindness forward whenever they are able – in effect to create a chain of good deeds. Even a simple cup of coffee for someone having a bad day can change their whole outlook.
Katheryn Desiree Carlon said she sometimes pays for the person behind her at Starbucks.
“I never stick around to see how long the train lasts,” Carlon said, “but I like to imagine the next few people behind me pay it forward as well.”
For Dustin Langston, the kindness of a stranger came in circumstances a little more serious when he ran out of gas on Interstate 15 a few miles outside of Beaver.
“A kind gentleman pulled over and just so happened to have a gallon of gas in his trunk,” Langston said. “It was enough to get me to Beaver. I offered to pay him for the gas, but he refused.”
As coincidence would have it, Langston had the opportunity to pay it forward when he pulled into the gas station in Beaver and saw a family trying to get to California but short on gas money.
“I filled up the minivan’s gas tank and they were on their way,” Langston said. “We all need help sometimes.”
Other times, more than just a time of need, unsolicited help comes in a time of desperation. This was the case for Sarah Nufer Jade when her husband had to go back to work just three days after the birth of her first child. Her parents, who had been in town helping, also had to leave at the same time.
“Although I could handle the day-to-day tasks,” Jade said, “I had been working full-time for years right up until the due date. I was used to a fast-paced, busy lifestyle, and suddenly I was recovering by myself. I decided to go to Wal-Mart to pick up a few last minute items. I was tired and on the verge of tears and lonely.”
Jade said she was feeling upset because her daughter seemed to be struggling to hold her head up in the car seat, but Jade had been told not to use blankets to prop her head. Once in Wal-Mart, Jade said, she saw a man she recognized as a regular customer at another store where she had worked as a cashier, but she wasn’t sure he would make the connection until he approached her.
“He came over and asked how old (my daughter) was,” Jade said, “and I said three days. He said he needed an opinion on something, and he held up two things one gray and one green. He asked which color I liked for a little baby, and I said green. He thanked me and I went on my way to check out of the store.”
When she reached her vehicle, the man caught up with her and gave her a neck pad intended for babies to use in car seats. It was green.
And before she could leave, he ran back into the store and returned with a $20 bill, which he told her to use for her next pack of diapers.
“That’s when the tears really came. I drove up the canyon to think about this experience and embrace the connection that was made between near strangers. I have never seen him again. But that moment has changed my life. I have had two more kids since then, and am now a foster mom and have taken in over a dozen children. I have vowed that day, to never let myself forget the kindness and the experience that happened. … I hope someday he knows what an impact he made.”
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