My Turn

So much kindness — and then there’s the exception

Special to The CambrianJanuary 7, 2014 

Boy, will I ever be glad when this chapter of my life is behind me. After living in Cambria for 30 years, the decision was made by my daughter Lisa that I should no longer live alone. I had experienced a serious bout of the adult version of whooping cough and had a hard time getting around.

“Dad, if you get to the point where you need to have someone assist you, I can’t come up to Cambria; you have to move closer to me in Orange County,” Lisa explained. I was nearing my 80th birthday and my life certainly was in the process of changing.

I naively thought it would take me two months to sort through my possessions and prepare my home to be sold. I have spent more than six months at the task, but I am nearly ready for the transition.

Soon after I started, I realized I couldn’t do the necessary work and also sort through the things I had acquired over the 30 wonderful years I have lived in this very special place. So I simply put my things in a fleet of cardboard boxes and would sort through them eventually. But I kept running out of boxes.

I asked my neighbor Jim Wilson if I could borrow his pickup truck so I could bring a greater bunch of boxes from the Cookie Crock market. I assembled five or six boxes in the store’s parking lot to take home. But I encountered a problem: I didn’t know how to unlock the truck’s tailgate.

Perplexed, I stood next to the pile of boxes. Then I heard a voice behind me, “Are you having a problem? May I help you?” A middle-aged woman was standing near her SUV a short distance away. I explained my problem. “Let me have your keys and I’ll see if I can unlock the rear hatch,” she said. She tried a number of times, but couldn’t open the darn thing.

“Put your boxes in my SUV and I will follow you home,” she said. “No point in going home empty handed. How far away do you live?”

“Perhaps 10 minutes,” I replied.

“OK, you lead the way and I’ll follow,” she said with a smile.

I parked at my curb and pointed to where we could put the boxes.

“John — John Brannon. I didn’t realize that was you!” she exclaimed. “I heard you were leaving Cambria, but I haven’t seen you for a long time.” She got out of her vehicle and gave me a wonderful, warm hug. “I’m so glad to see you. I have really enjoyed our friendship over the years.”

“Well, this certainly expresses what a thoughtful, considerate person you are, dear friend,” I said. “To have recognized me and brought me and the boxes to my home is one thing, but I was no more than a stranger to you until you recognized me. It certainly reflects on your character.” She sweetly scoffed at my observation, but her helping a “stranger” was a genuine expression of helping another human being. And she’s so modest she’d rather not have her name in the paper.

Later in the day I told my friend Bruce Howard about my delightful experience. Bruce is deeply involved with one of our local Rotary organizations. “As a matter of fact, Rotary is fine example of people helping other people,” he said. “The organization was involved with the worldwide project of eliminating polio from the world. By immunizing people all over the world, the incidence of the crippling/fatal disease dropped from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to just 223 cases in 2012. Rotary’s primary motto is ‘Service above self,’” Bruce said with a broad smile.

Alvin Ferrer is the new owner and pharmacist at Cambria Drug & Gift store. He graduated from University of California, San Francisco in 1998 with a doctorate degree in pharmacy.

He has devoted a year to expanding the town’s only drug store into a marvelous business and invests 10 to 12 hours a day in the project.

We also have other kinds of people in the world as well.

Alvin was recently having some important documents notarized in an office. He was aware that an elderly woman was staring at him from across the room. And then she spoke: “You look like you’re Chinese. Let me tell you something ... I don’t appreciate your coming into town and taking over white people’s jobs when there’s a shortage of jobs out there to begin with.”

Talk about making an absolute fool of yourself! This rude, impolite woman was badly mistaken in her description of Alvin. He is 42 years old; he arrived in the United States from the Philippines (not China) when he was 4 years old. He has lived in Los Angeles and Sacramento for most of his life. He not only has not taken jobs away from white Americans, he owns a business that is staffed by 15 employees. He is a kind, courteous and helpful professional person.

And there are people who are totally lacking in any sense of kindness and courtesy. When Alvin first moved into his home, he noticed that his mailbox was broken. He reported the problem to his landlord. In time, the landlord fixed the problem. But before the problem was repaired, Alvin found two messages in the box: “Why don’t you go back to the country where you came from?” The second note said, “Fix your g-- d--- mail box.”

Alvin and his wife are parents of an 18-month-old little girl. His wife is extremely concerned about the safety of their daughter. Mrs. Ferrer is hesitant to take the child for a ride in her stroller. To be concerned about the safety of a small child is something one might expect to read about in a war-torn country elsewhere in the world.

Alvin did the correct thing — he filed a complaint with the county Sheriff’s Office. The authorities found fingerprints on the notes.

How nice it would have been if the jerk that left the two messages instead had left a note saying, “I see that you put in many hours at your business and find it difficult to find the time and energy to repair your mailbox. I would be pleased to do the needed repair. Glad to be of help.”

But he didn’t. However, the authorities are now aware of his actions, which are considered hate-crime offenses.

John Brannon’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email him at

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