By Mims Cushing

I hope many of you reading this have spent hours, if not days and weeks, helping family  and friends when they needed help. Perhaps they were incapacitated or otherwise unable to do chores of daily living. I hope you felt good about it. As a child of 10, I helped my mother when she returned from the hospital following surgery. I brought her a “meal” and it made me feel helpful. Special. Important. Happy. I brought her the newspaper, the mail, and books, and discovered that helping people who are sick not only made them feel good, it also helped me.

It’s one thing to help out a family member; it’s another to be a good citizen and help out more or less a stranger on an ongoing basis.

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A local person who has Parkinson’s and prefers not to be mentioned by name told me he is so grateful that neighbors on one side of him on his little street regularly, without fail, bring him the newspaper in the morning.  Sometimes they meet each other in the driveway and chat a bit. He relies on them. A newspaper is important to him, giving him contact with the rest of the world. On the other side of his house, a volunteer graciously and with good cheer brings him a wonderful meal that a church prepares. This delivery is assured. It gives him encouragement that people are dedicated to doing kind acts.

Week after week, a friend of mine goes shopping with someone who cannot drive and has no way of getting groceries or other necessary items. So, without fail, she drives this lady to do errands around town and also helps the woman choose food.

The other day someone told me a friend of mine used to drive from Ponte Vedra Beach to Neptune Beach to make breakfast for a grandchild before he left for school. The child’s mother had to go to work and would be late if she stayed to fix a morning meal. That same person, once a week, makes a point of visiting people who are ill, living in assisted living facilities, or living alone. She spends her Sunday afternoons keeping them company.  

Of course there are many opportunities to do volunteer work — libraries, schools, senior centers, pet centers, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, food banks, and many more places. But assisting people regularly one-on-one is a different matter and involves an undying, ongoing commitment.

People should realize giving of themselves is a great gift. I am talking about far more than just random acts of kindness, such as picking up litter one morning on the beach or holding a door open for someone struggling with it.

Random acts of kindness are wonderful. A man who lived across the street from me always bounded down his driveway and carried my groceries or heavy boxes from my car into my house. After hurricanes last year, neighbors raked up massive amounts of debris in nearby yards before folks even returned from an  evacuation. And they cleaned up playgrounds as well.

I’m sure there are hundreds of stories like this. There ought to be a way people who care about others can be acknowledged. A Chinese saying goes, “If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone. The secret to happiness is helping others.”  And if someone you know is helping you or someone else, be sure to thank them.

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