Column: Learning from those who help

411 is quite possibly my new favorite number.

After dialing it close to 100,000 times last weekend to look for an auto parts store and/or mechanic, I’d like to consider the operators my close pals. Perhaps I’ll get a few wedding invitations out of this.

But the real heroes of my weekend were the good Samaritans who helped in my fight against my car, which is bent on causing my life as much torment as possible.

From the J&J Taxi driver who took me to work one day at 4 a.m., to the police officers who jumped my car battery and escorted me home, to the friendly NAPA employee in DeKalb who changed my car battery, to the people at Rich’s Tire Service in Sycamore who charged my old battery free of charge, many people went beyond the call of duty to help out a new resident
to the area.

My car is still dead in my apartment’s parking lot, taunting me with its lifelessness, but at least I made it to work to go with my new-found respect for the friendly people of this community.

Likewise, good Samaritans have been coming far and wide to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, a tragedy that makes my car troubles seem like a hangnail in comparison. Many area businesses have offered to help in this time of need. And while it was heart-wrenching to listen to Pumpkin Fest creator Wally Thurow describe how he might no longer have a home, it was oh so satisfying to talk to the Culver’s employee who created a donation box to help Thurow out.

I especially enjoyed reading an Associated Press story about a visit by New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn to the Astrodome in Houston on Saturday to meet with hurricane refugees.

The multi-millionaire football player spent one of his few off days playing with children, sitting on cots with the elderly, and providing joy to people who desperately could use a little.

“Right now money doesn’t matter,” Horn told the AP. “Who you are or where you’re from doesn’t matter. Getting to come out here and give a child a hug or give someone a hug who knows that their house and everything that they have is gone is what’s important.”

While celebrities are getting the most attention, thousands and thousands of “regular” people have donated their time and money to help victims of the hurricane.

Now, I’m not saying we all need to go down to Louisiana to volunteer, or even that we open our checkbooks to the cause. I have yet to donate money to any relief fund, and it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that others do.

But what we can do is be a good Samaritan to those around us. If we see someone in trouble, we can help. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, we can provide one. If we are as generous in our everyday life as we our during times of desperate need as with Hurricane Katrina, the world would be a far better place.

I’m incredibly thankful to all the people who helped me out this weekend in a situation that was far less grave than the one happening in the Gulf Coast region. So I know the people of the Gulf Coast region are incredibly thankful to the many volunteers who are helping them in their dire situation.

After this is over, let’s continue to try to make people incredibly thankful.

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