It’s been a difficult Thanksgiving week for many people here in the U.S. this year. I decided to compile a sample of recent stories illustrating just a few of the many acts of kindness and compassion that often go unnoticed in the midst of tragedy and conflict. The people in these stories stand as reminders of what humanity can be.
That’s something for which we can all be thankful.
For the past year and a half, Neal Shytles has been residing in a Norfolk, Virginia homeless shelter. Having fallen on hard times after losing his job as a taxi driver, he was forced to turn to the shelter once his savings ran out.
With no family, Neal reached out to a local television station, WTKR, with a request. He asked to be allowed to post an ad on their Facebook page looking for a family or individual willing to spend Thanksgiving with him. Producers were moved by his story, and decided to go to Union Mission to interview him in person and share his wish for a family with their viewers.
“It hurts me to be alone, no family or nobody around,” Neal explained during his interview.
It didn’t take long for his story to be picked up by social media. Neal has now received invitations from across the country – not only for Thanksgiving, but future holidays, as well. The first to respond to his Facebook post were Cory and Ashley McLemore of Newport News.
“Because we’ve been military and I identify with having to be away from your family and not having family around for the holidays, so it kind of struck a chord with me, ” Ashley told WTKR.
They plan to pick him up Thursday morning, hosting him for Thanksgiving lunch and dinner. Thanks to the kind and generous nature of the McLemores and others, Neal Shytles won’t be alone this year.
He told ABC news, “I thought it would just be a local thing. I didn’t realize it would go viral, but since my story aired, the donations at my shelter have gone up. I think it’s made people open up their hearts.”
Ruby Holt has spent her life in Tennessee. According to Ms. Holt, who now resides in Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, she’s only ever left the state once – and had never seen the ocean.
She mentioned that fact during a conversation with staff members at the residential home – who subsequently nominated her for a trip to the beach through the Wish of a Lifetime organization. She and three caretakers from Brookdale were sent on an all expense paid trip to a resort on the Gulf of Mexico.
She told the Associated Press, “I always wanted to see the beach. I heard people talking about it, how wonderful it was and I wanted to see it. I never had the opportunity to do so until just now.”
According to Mark Davis, pictured with Ruby above, “When we got to the room yesterday, she was just pointing out the ocean, and, you know, her facial expressions and…she was just speechless.”
Ruby Holt celebrates her one hundred and first birthday next month.
Finally, the media often points out the faults and foibles of young Americans, so it can become all too easy to despair for the next generation. Here are a couple of teens who might inspire us to have a little faith.
A teenager in Missouri was shopping at her local Walmart when she heard a cry for help from several aisles away where an 11 month old baby had stopped breathing.
She had recently learned CPR in her high school health class. Despite never having performed the life-saving technique in an emergency situation before, she kept calm and administered CPR until the infant was resuscitated and began breathing on it’s own.
According to emergency personal, they quite likely would not have made it in time to save the child, had she not acted. Abby is enlisted in the National Guard, and plans to be an E.R. doctor.
When five year old Jocelyn Rojas went missing from her front yard in Pennsylvania in July of 2013, it could easily have ended in tragedy. The child was lured into an unidentified male suspects vehicle with promises of ice cream, and her whereabouts were unknown for more than two hours.
Police responded to the report of the missing child immediately by blocking off streets, bringing in canine units, and canvasing the neighborhood with her picture. More than 100 neighborhood volunteers, including fifteen year old Tamar Boggs, joined police in trying to locate the little girl.
While searching up and down neighborhood streets on bicycle, Tamar spotted the child in the suspect’s vehicle. Afraid to lose sight of the car, he and a friend chased the vehicle on their bikes. He later told reporters that he had considered that he might have to “jump on the car” if the man hadn’t stopped.
Thankfully, the man soon became aware that he was being followed.
Tamar said, “As soon as the guy started noticing that we were chasing him, he stopped at the end of the hill and let her out, and she ran to me and said that she needed her mom.”
He took Jocelyn directly to the police, who were able reunite her with her worried family. Of Tamar Boggs, her grandmother said, “He’s our hero, there’s no words to say.”