“People are [beeping] awesome,” the young man’s email began. “People are really, [beeping] awesome.”
The author’s name is Denny. He’s an 18-year-old a single dad in Charlotte, North Carolina. He works triple overtime just to pay for babysitting and food. He lives in a one-bedroom apartment. He earns squat for a living.
Times have been tight for Denny, his checking account is on E. And ever since his wife died, Denny has been struggling.
For dinner that night, he was going to make a frozen chicken pot pie for himself, and a feed his daughter a PBJ with pureed spinach. Gag me.
When Denny got to the checkout-line conveyor belt, he met a teenager cashier. The cashier asked Denny if he would allow her to pay for his groceries. Denny refused, but the cashier kept insisting.
Finally, Denny relented and let the young woman pay so he wouldn’t attract any more unwanted attention. When the transaction was finished, the girl told Denny flatly, “My father gives me this money and tells me to help anyone who needs help.”
Denny thanked the young woman and said, “Your dad sounds like a great guy.”
The cashier winked. “He thinks the same about you, sir.”
On the way out to the car, Denny’s vocal 2-year-old asked him why he was crying.
“Daddy’s just really happy, sweetie,” he said.
Meantime, 413 miles north, in the sleepy hamlet of Canal Winchester, Ohio, we have Jenni. Allow me to introduce you.
Jenni is early 50s, born in Ethiopia, but immigrated to the U.S. when she was in her 30s. The first thing you should know about Jenni is that she is a bit of an underachiever.
After earning numerous college degrees, raising kids, and carving out a rewarding career with a major technology company, Jenni took a side-gig—why not?—driving for Uber on weekends.
“The reason I drive Uber,” she told WSYX ABC Channel 6, “is to help others.”
Which is putting it mildly. Among the reasons for Jenni’s side job was earning extra cash to send to Ethiopian orphanages. Simply put, Jenni is that rare kind of person so saintly she makes Santa look like a jerk.
One spring day, Jenni got a call for an Uber. On the phone was the aged voice of an 88-year-old man named Paul. Jenni felt an instant connection.
After giving Paul a few Uber rides, they really hit it off. Jenni took a special interest in the old man. She started hanging out at his house. She began visiting on weekends, or just to shoot the bull.
Not long thereafter, Paul started going downhill healthwise. His dementia became worse, until it was soon obvious that Paul needed round-the-clock care.
The decision was a cinch for Jenni. She quit her job with Uber and became Paul’s caregiver. She took a 50-percent pay cut without hesitation.
Currently, Paul and his new caregiver spend a lot of time together. They visit the supermarket together, they run errands, they visit doctors, and they often finish out their days at O’Charley’s, eating platefuls of saturated fat.
When asked why Jenni chose to become a caregiver for a total stranger, Jenni answered:
“Sometimes you don’t know what you’re created for. I am created for taking care of others.”
And now let’s travel 1,032 miles southward into middle Florida (state motto: “Ask about our grandkids!”).
Meet Mason. Mason is 46 and lives in an average subdivision, with an average suburban lifestyle. He has a beautiful wife, a Mr. Coffee machine, two-point-six kids, and he actually owns a genuine picket fence. “I just like the way it looks,” says Mason.
One day, Mason caught a young woman behind his garage, stealing water from Mason’s hosepipe.
The girl bolted. She carried a bucket of sloshing water down the street, sprinting away from him. Mason chased the kid until they reached a ramshackle house several blocks away.
Mason’s middle-aged quadriceps were about to rupture, and his glutes had already gone to be with the Lord. He confronted the young woman and asked why she was stealing water, but the answer became immediately clear.
The young woman’s family was living in a dilapidated house without running water or electricity.
The next day, Mason made a few visits to local utility company offices and, voila, the needy family’s power and water was restored.
Mason tells me, however, that he has no idea where the 82 random bags of groceries anonymously left on the family’s porch came from.
“Beats me,” said Mason.
Let me close by saying this: Yesterday morning I made the mistake of watching cable news while eating my Cornflakes. A journalist with a perky haircut eagerly informed me about a high-school-age shooting, numerous car wrecks, rapes, drug busts, and about how a woman was charged with murder for allegedly kicking a pregnant woman.
To finish the broadcast, the news anchor capped things off with a feel-good story about the world’s lengthiest recorded lightning bolt, clocking in at 477 miles long.
Before I had finished my cereal, I felt like someone had slapped me with a rolling pin. I began to wonder how this world could possibly become any uglier. I freely admit, I was feeling pretty low.
But then my phone dinged. It was an email from some guy named Denny. “People are [beeping] awesome…” his message began.
And the heck of it is, I know he’s right.