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Our next-door neighbor just passed away last month. It was a terrible surprise. That Tuesday morning as I headed out to work I saw the EMS van quietly heading away from the house behind us. When they go slow I often optimistically think the level of emergency must be low. What we did not know then, saddens us greatly now.

Our neighbor was a kind man, a mentor to some and loved by many. Quick to wave to friends, and passer-bys too, ask anyone and they will tell you he was always ready to lend a hand. As a matter of fact he was known for helping out without being asked. How do we raise our children to be so kind? Perhaps this type of behavior starts with seeing a parent holding the door for complete strangers, or letting someone go ahead of you at the check out register. Maybe it is born in us, I’m not sure. I am hoping we can all learn to model this behavior.
Being intentionally considerate of others not only makes us feel good today, it can become a way of life. Perhaps as the movie “Pay it Forward” pointed out, our daily actions can lead to other more wonderful helpful actions tomorrow and perhaps some one somewhere will go out of their way to help us when we really need it.
One day many years ago my wife, then single, found our neighbor trimming branches in the yard. She thanked him. He smiled and said it would be easier to cut the lawn for her. From time to time little things would be fixed miraculously. She often wondered who was doing these intentional acts of kindness around the house, but she had her suspicions! I too experienced this first hand a couple of years ago when our propane tank sprang a leak. Our neighbor was over in a jiffy helping us to fix the problem.
On any given day he could be seen dozens of times in as many places managing crews, solving problems, involved in every aspect of keeping our town running. People like him are rare and sought after in communities great and small, in every corner of the world. We were so lucky to have him here.
One day he came by and asked me if I would consider being on a local board in town. He explained the needs, requirements and responsibilities. His words still ring in my mind, “take care of your neighbors”. I instantly felt inspired to get involved.
At his funeral, this past Labor Day, there must have been at least 500 people standing in the warm sun numbed by the loss of this wonderful person. As we listened to stories of kindness and humor, it struck me that everyone there was probably touched in some way by his helpful spirit. Imagine if each person there was to pass on one intentional act of kindness the good we would continue to do here in our town and beyond.
His last act of kindness, yet another intentional thoughtful way to help others, was to be an organ donor. If we learn one important lesson from losing such a valuable and loved person from our community, on our worst day, we can still offer one final helping hand to others by giving the gift of life. There is a huge need for organ donors. An organization called “Paired Donation Network” allows us to give to others with the expressed idea that when you or one of your family members is in need they will be top of the list for receiving that gift of life.
So in the spirit of “community” the next time you renew your license consider adding the gift of life. Taking care of his neighbors and family was who he was. I, for one, am inspired by his lifetime of intentional acts of kindness.


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