“The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you’ve ever had.” – Unknown
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown”? “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”. I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now”. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.” I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
This Kind Act is a project in which the clientele at the Senior Center in Dexter Michigan put together packets of much needed mini-sewing supplies for Ann Arbors local homeless shelter! I was pleasantly surprised to see what they had done for the shelter. While volunteering at the homeless shelter, I noticed that sewing kits were one of many much sought after items. I mentioned this by chance to the Senior Centers Director Valerie, and lo and behold she led a project with the seniors to put together these great sewing kits!
Thank you Valerie and all of those at the center for your thoughtfulness!
September 21st is the “International Day of Peace”. How we wish everyday could be peaceful here on earth. Unfortunately it is not, however as the song says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. Those wise words are true as true can be. Peace and kindheartedness must begin within ourselves first and then shared with others. So let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Our tribute and praise goes out to Faye Dietiker of California. She is the founder of Breast Cancer Angels. Below you can read Faye’s own story of her awesome organization, and I have to say that Faye is truly an Earth Angel! Thank you so much for making this world a better place to live in with your selfless kindness and compassion!
The following is written by Faye Dietiker.
I live in Cypress, California with my wonderful husband Don. I am a mom with an extended family of five adult children. I have a beautiful baby granddaughter, Carianne who is 2 years old. I am also an 8 year survivor of stage 4 breast cancer and the founder and director of Breast Cancer Angels. Breast Cancer Angels is an organization that I began in 2000 to financially and emotionally assist women in treatment for breast cancer. When I was going through very aggressive experimental treatment I sat next to several young women who had to decide whether to buy their anti-nausea medications ($270.00 for 9 pills) or buy groceries to feed their children. Of course the children came first and the mom’s were sick for days. I decided that if I survived I would find a way to help these women feed their children and buy their medications.
My concept was that for $20 a month anyone could become an “Angel” and help support women going through breast cancer treatment. We started with 6 “Angels” putting in $20 a month and we now have over 250 “Angels” who send in from $20 to several hundred dollars a month. Our motto is “We can all be Angels here on earth”. In the past six years we have given out over $650,000 in financial aid. We are currently assisting over 70 women a month, with 56 children in these households. We assist with food, housing, utilities, medical co-pays, prescription costs and much more. We get referrals from ten Breast Centers in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego Counties and from other agencies. Breast Cancer Angels is run out of my home office and 100% of all donations go back out in financial assistance. A corporate sponsor meets our overhead.
I feel blessed every day that I am still here and able to make the breast cancer journey a little easier for the women we assist.
For more information about Faye and the Breast Cancer Angels go to breastcancerangels.org