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Column: Grieving parent gives newbies a boost

Tears welled up in my eyes. Would they have as recently as a couple of years ago? It’s hard to say.

I hurt so badly for the parent (Parents? Sadly, I doubt I’ll ever know, unless they happen upon this column.) who left $10 in a greeting card with the Starbucks employees at Barnes & Noble in the NorthPark Mall in Davenport, Iowa.

The money was a gift for our twins, Anna and Elise, “in memory of an amazing little girl who got her angel wings two years ago … the day she turned 6 months old.”

Let’s just say we savored our macchiatos and double chocolate chip cookie like we never could have imagined. And then I kissed my little girls on the forehead, with a little bit of salt that had trickled down my cheek also kissing their skin.

I write a column about people in the Sauk Valley. While the Quad Cities area is outside my jurisdiction, I’ve heard tales from folks around here about these sort of random acts of kindness. A kind soul pays for the car behind them in the drive-thru. A selfless person leaves $20 at the register to go toward the groceries of the family behind in line.

These things happen everywhere. So, I wanted to bring this anecdote home with me and share it with you.

The timing couldn’t have been better for my wife, Kayla, and me. While parenting has changed us as we never could have imagined, the perfect storm of sleep deprivation, cabin fever and the eternal struggle to make ends meet left us needing a little pick-me-up.

This beautiful soul gave us the mother of all shots in the arm. Today (Saturday morning, full disclosure), I’m extraordinarily happy about it. Because, as I alluded to in my The People’s Voice column on Father Bruce Ludeke, my goal for Lent is to look out for my fellow man a little more. It’s easier to do when you get such reassurance that you’re not alone in your endeavor. Even outside the Lenten season, there’s never a bad time to have your faith in humanity restored.

How about yesterday, though? At that time, I predominantly felt sad. And it reminded me of a Christmas shopping trip to Bergner’s at Northland Mall. (Sure, it’s a mile away. But everything is a “trip” with twins.) You could imagine we get stopped a lot for folks to drink in the cuteness of the girls. In this instance, a few employees were peering in when one asked their names.

I told her, and I could practically see her heart quiver as she said, “Elise was my daughter’s name.” I was speechless. Minutes later, as we ventured on, I lamented to Kayla the fact that I wish I could provide some counsel.

But that’s not my place. What we experienced yesterday, however, painted a gorgeous picture of what my place can be. I’m a creative guy. I can find ways to pay forward the selfless gifts I’ve received.

And isn’t paying it forward kind of cliché or, at least, in vogue? How about I simply do well for my fellow man out of the kindness of my heart?

Won’t you join me? I’ve got a feeling this could be easier, and get pretty contagious, if we all do it together.

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