Last night, while America was fast asleep, stuff happened. Lots of stuff.
Take the two college guys named Greg and Blair. They were driving toward Florida, careening along an interstate.
These are your average college age kids. They had loud music blaring, they were laughing, talking about a topic all college boys talk about. Hint: rhymes with “whirls.”
At first glance Greg and Blair might look like typical teens who skip haircuts, wear unwashed clothes, bathe once per presidential administration, and eat pizza six times per week. But they’re so much more than that. They also eat tacos.
When Greg and Blair saw a compact car on the side of the road last night, they stopped to help. The car was owned by a middle-aged woman who was struggling with a scissor jack, lying beneath her vehicle. Her kids were in the backseat, eating from a jumbo-sized bag of Jolly Ranchers. The woman was praying a semi didn’t run her over.
When Greg and Blair pulled behind her, the woman became guarded. This is a dangerous world, and being a female alone on a major highway in the middle of the night is not exactly an ideal scenario.
Not to mention the boy’s pandemic-style surgical masks made them look like train robbers.
She gripped a tire iron in her hand until her knuckles went white.
“Need any help?” shouted one boy over the din of traffic.
Greg saw her squeeze the iron harder.
“We’re friendly,” said Greg, hands held in surrender.
Her tough demeanor broke. She almost started to cry. She admitted she had no idea how to position a scissor jack. “Thank you.”
The young men got to work. They attached her spare within minutes. When it came time to tighten the lugnuts with a tire iron, rather than ask for her tire iron—which she still clutched in a death grip—Greg retrieved one from his own car.
After the tire was changed, the woman tried to pay them. The boys would not accept money, instead, the woman’s children offered the young men selections from their bag of Jolly Ranchers.
The young men, because they are still very young, cheerfully removed every last green-apple-flavored Jolly Rancher from the bag.
Meanwhile, in rural Georgia, there was a woman exiting the supermarket. It was night. She’s just gotten off work. A dog started following her in the parking lot. The stray was covered in blood. No collar.
She invited the old dog into her car, tempting him with Saltines. Surprisingly, the stray leapt into the passenger seat. Soon there was blood all over her upholstery. She wasn’t sure what to do next, so she called a girlfriend who volunteers in a veterinary office.
An hour later, the veterinary doc himself arrived at his office still in pajamas. It turned out the dog needed stitches. The doctor gave the animal the full treatment. The old animal got wormed, bathed, stabbed with needles, and he even received a minor pedicure.
When the dog came trotting from the back room, his young rescuer was already picking out his new name.
“I will call him Elvis,” she said. “That way I will be one of the few who can say I went home with Elvis.”
Hey, whatever works.
Which leads us to Wisconsin. Our story starts long ago when Bill received a phone call at three in the morning from a stranger. “I need help,” said the young man on the phone.
The 24-year-old kid said he was an alcoholic who had been trying to get clean. He locked himself in his girlfriend’s apartment when the withdrawal symptoms started. But he was in bad shape. Sweating, vomiting, trembling, hallucinating. He was terrified and didn’t know who to call.
“How’d you get this number?” asked a surprised Bill.
The young man said he had called his friend, a recovering alcoholic, in Canada. Whereupon this friend called HIS recovering-alcoholic friend in Chattanooga, who immediately called Bill, who still lives in Wisconsin. Bill had been a recovering alcoholic for 32 years.
Bill jumped into his car and brought the kid home. He gave the kid his spare bedroom. He cooked him breakfast and held the kid’s ponytail while the boy vomited it into Bill’s commode.
Sometimes, when the withdrawals got particularly bad, Bill let the kid cry into his chest all night.
The young man went through a period of pure purgatory, but he dried out. Bill took him to support meetings, he helped the young man find a place of his own. Bill stuck with the kid through some very difficult times.
The kid has been sober for 13 years. Last night, that young man got married. Bill, who is still a spry 72-year-old, was best man.
All over the U.S., in every state, county, city, zip code, and rural school district, average people do things like I just told you about. These do-gooders are often folks who don’t make much fuss, and make even less money. They aren’t proud, they won’t ever get their pictures in the paper.
Often they do their deeds under the cover of anonymity, without vainglory, away from stage lights. They don’t film their acts of charity, they have no interest in going viral, no need for praise, and in fact most will never tell a soul what they’ve done.
These people simply keep their heads down and help others. They help others get sober, they rescue bleeding creatures, they change tires on interstates, they save things, mend things, heal things, grow things, build things, and love things.
What this writer wants to know is why. Why in this hellish worldscape do people do such good stuff? What makes people kind? Why does anyone give to another?
The answer is simple, Greg and Blair say. “We do it for the green-apple Jolly Ranchers.”