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Column: Small acts of kindness — Island style
On a misty Monday morning, over 100 people of different faiths attended a memorial Mass at Our Lady of the Isle Church. The Mass was to remember the horror of Newtown, Connecticut but also to come together as a community and pray for our continued protection. The feeling permeated the church that we are all in this together; we need each other. With the fear the shootings caused, it helps to recognize the everyday acts of kindness right here, where we live.
Last Christmas Eve, at five o’clock in the evening, I realized I didn’t have a copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an important part of our celebration. I called the local video store and the owner told me that both copies were already rented. “But wait, I have a copy of the colorized version at home in my DVD player. A friend sent it to me and I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet, but if you give me 15 minutes, I’ll go home and get it for you.” And she did.
We watched the colorized version, which we’d never seen before, and toasted her with sparkling grape juice. I returned the movie the next morning so she could watch it that night.
We’ve lived here six years and I’m still surprised at the sweetness of Islanders. My son started at the school in fifth grade, a daunting task, coming into a small school where most of the kids have known each other since preschool and many had parents who graduated from the school. One of the teachers took him to each class on the first day and introduced him to his teachers and classmates. His own guardian angel.
The guardian angels are everywhere, sometimes to the dismay of our kids. The school principal knows every kid’s name and I overheard a mother telling her ninth-grade daughter, “You better watch yourself. Someone is always paying attention to what you’re doing and they’ll call me up and tell me.” A comforting thought when you have teenagers.
The generosity of the people who live here shows in the young man who hand-delivers The New York Times every Sunday to an elderly friend who can’t drive anymore; the post office ladies who held my birthday packages until my husband could pick them up so the surprise wasn’t ruined; the woman who wanted to borrow a skateboard for her visiting grandson and with two phone calls, had three skateboards, including one rescued from the goody pile; and the guy who carried a man, home from the hospital for the last time, up the front stairs of his house in torrential rain.
If you’ve lived here long enough, you’ve probably experienced unexpected kindness from people living their everyday lives, quietly watching out for each other. It may not be the most convenient place to live. Who hasn’t driven at top speed from MacArthur Airport to make the last ferry or felt the frustration of your kid telling you at bedtime that he needs a protractor by tomorrow morning? But it’s worth it. This time of year, when the summer people are long gone and anyone who can has fled the Island for warmer climates, those of us left huddle around the fire together, warming our hands.
The politician Robert Finch said, “True belonging is born of relationships, not only to one another but to a place of shared responsibilities and benefits. We love not so much what we have acquired as what we have made and whom we have made it with.”
Whether it’s a church, school, sports, the Legion, a favorite bar, our fire department, the Silver Circle or a school play, that community is here all around you.