Today’s offering is a bouquet of people sharing a common thread —kindness. There are countless others, but I chose these particular individuals today because they represent “the better angels of our nature” (to quote Lincoln).
L ife is filled with circumstances that seem almost too much to bear. Adults faced with stressful situations is one thing; but as psychologists tell us, small children, especially those 7 years of age and under, have difficulty in understanding the complex facets of traumatic circumstances. But having a friend during times of need can help a great deal.
In 1997, learning about the National Exchange Club’s bear-giving campaign, Carolyn Berney and the late Judy Smith decided to provide teddy bears to our local ambulance crews. Such gifts are
known to be an enormous help to emergency personnel when dealing with children during traumatic situations. Attached to each bear was a tag that read: “My name is Sir Care-A-lot. I was given to you today to help cheer you up and be your friend forever. From now on, I will always be here for you as your special friend.”
Carolyn began offering gift bags filled with coloring books, crayons, markers and drawing paper for the children. She delivers about 200 bags a year, along with teddy bears and other toys; she named her group Hugs and Kisses.
Ever expanding its sphere of kindness and concern, Hugs and Kisses has opened Caprice, a gallery and gift boutique at 812 Cornwall St. in the West Village. The best part of the business is that every cent of sales is donated to helping kids through Hugs and Kisses.
“I met Art Sauer about 10 years ago. I work at The Garden Shed and he has sort of hung out at Lily’s Coffee House for several years. We became friends as a result of the many conversations we had,” Bonny Spencer explained. “I was pleased to discover that Art is a bright and interesting person. He might be homeless, but he knows that home is where the heart is.”
“He plays the guitar for donations and sells his paintings on the sidewalk … and I have never heard him complain about his situation in life.”
When Bonny realized that her friend was in pain from his last four teeth being infected — and had no money to pay for extractions — she contacted her dentist, Peter Nelson, in San Luis Obispo. Dr. Nelson not only extracted the diseased teeth at no charge, he offered to make a set of dentures for Art and charge only for the material required.
When Bonny faced a legal action growing out of her effort to help with Art’s situation, lawyer Jay Hieatt provided his services at no charge.
I n January 1982, Stephanie and Richard Stacy’s lives turned upside down when 3-year-old daughter Courtney was diagnosed with pulmonary cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States; about 30,000 victims have the disorder. Life expectancy for affected children in 1982 was 10 years.
Through the years, with sister Melissa at her side, Courtney refused to give in to the disease. Melissa was always “there” for her sister. Courtney had to check into French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo when health problems arose. Melissa would spend nights in Courtney’s hospital room on those occasions, being a companion, partner, supporter — and inveterate inspirational tease.
Courtney’s lungs continued to deteriorate and she became dependent on oxygen around the clock. Melissa offered one of hers, but doctors placed her sister’s name on lung transplant list.
It took two years to find a suitable pair of lungs, allowing Courtney to continue her college education.
She met and married Robert Yates. Doctors did not support Courtney’s wish to bear children, so a surrogate pregnancy was considered. “Hey, Melissa …wanna do me a favor?” An egg from Courtney and some sperm from Rob had a hot date in a Petri dish. The fertilized egg was implanted into Melissa’s womb. Mackenzie Allyson Yates was born on her father’s birthday, Oct. 22, 2006.
However, Courtney died a week before Mackenzie’s first birthday.
To paraphrase Psalm 112, “Blessed is the person who is gracious and gives to those in need.”
E-mail John Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org