Category Archives: News

Building Bonds

Two good-news stories, both involving tall buildings, stood out last week. What has a skyscraper got to do with sweetness, you might ask? For one thing, it might lead to a baby raccoon getting stranded on – and later saved from – a window ledge high above the ground. This happened at the downtown Toronto Star building, so not only was the rescue witnessed by a crowd of newspaper workers, it was also diligently recorded and reported. The baby raccoon had been up there for a couple of days, unable to get down, so firefighters set up a long ladder and basket to try and help the trapped animal.

Although the first reports all referred to the animal as a “he,” it was later found that the raccoon was actually female. (You’d think newspaper staff, of all people, would have their facts straight. Sheesh!) The Toronto Star folks did show their creative side by naming her Scoop. And not, we presume, just because she was safely scooped up in a net.

Eight thousand kilometres south of here, an act of kindness was happening outside another high-rise structure. As Reuters reports, window washers at the Sabara Children’s Hospital in Sao Paolo, Brazil, decided to cheer up sick children by wearing superhero costumes while they worked. Instead of staring at a dull, grey cityscape when they looked out the window, the kids caught glimpses of Batman, The Flash and Spiderman industriously applying their squeegees. A smiling nine-year-old told Reuters: “There is nothing to do in the hospital and, with these activities, a child’s day is happier.” (Truth be told, a smiling nine-year-old hospital patient could say anything and I’d quote her here.)

These buildings may be made of hard concrete, but last week they were the settings for some pretty soft-hearted good deeds. (See what I did, there?)

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If you look really closely, you’ll see a cute little sick kid waving from the tenth-floor window… No, not really. (FreeImages.com/pazham)

That’s Like 83 Cups of Coffee

I love these pay-it-forward stories, whereby someone buys a cup of coffee for the next customer in line. Imagine, though, if the tab included not just your java, but a few more coffees for your co-workers, plus a full tank of diesel… and totaled $110. And still the other guy covered it.

It was a pretty spontaneous act of kindness, in that the recipient, Tyson Crawley, had fully intended to make the transaction himself at service station in Australia. It was only after he realized he’d left his new bank card at home, and couldn’t remember the PIN number for his other one, that he started to sweat. He’d already pumped the fuel, he was in a rush to get to work, and now his dog was yapping impatiently outside.

That’s when another customer, John, stepped up and insisted on looking after the bill. It took some convincing – $110 is a lot of lettuce, after all – but Tyson just didn’t know what else to do.

Finally he agreed to take the money. But he asked John to write his contact information on the store receipt, so he could pay him back later. John scribbled on the paper, folded it, passed it back, and wished Tyson a good day.

He was long gone when Tyson unfolded the receipt to find that the only thing John had written, besides his first name, was: “Pass it on.”

Awww.

“So many people have said it has restored their faith in humanity,” Tyson commented in a later news report. He’s talking about the reaction he got after posting the story on Facebook. Tyson wanted to encourage other people to do good. Perhaps he also thought he might track down John, who’d consented to a selfie – that’s him on the right – before leaving the store.

Tyson added, “It’s what I always try to teach the world: Be kind, look after each other and don’t compete.”

And pass it on.

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Have you seen this man? You’ll know him by his cute smile and titanic heart. (Facebook photo)

Stem Cell Saviour

File this under A for Adorable. Not long ago, two new friends got together – he from Germany, she from Kingston, Ontario, both of them youthful, attractive individuals – and hung out for a couple of weeks in our nation’s capital. We’re guessing they dined with family and friends, did a little sight-seeing. Nothing too remarkable, it seems (except maybe for the part where they got introduced to the prime minister of Canada).

Oh, and there’s the minor fact that the German lad once saved the life of the young Canadian.

That was a couple of years ago, long before the two met face to face or had even heard each other’s names. Mackenzie Curran was 16 and seriously ill. She was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, acutely aware that fewer than half of people in her situation actually get one.

She also understood that despite the campaign organized in her community to encourage more people to join the stem cell registry, odds were that not a single one of those new donors would be a match for her. Much more likely, they’d be kept in the registry for a future person in need.

That brings us to Alexander Türk of Germany. He’d originally signed up with the international bone marrow registry seven years ago, to support a woman near his own town who needed a lifesaving transplant. He wasn’t a match for his neighbour. But years later, he turned out to be perfect for a teenager across the ocean.

So he saved her life.

Mackenzie and Alexander finally got to meet each other a short while ago and, judging by the news footage, could not seem to stop with the side-hugs. You’d have thought they were long-lost cousins. In a way, I suppose they are.

Right now there are over 25 million potential donors on the international registry. Does that sound like a lot of people? In actual fact, it’s about a third of one percent of the world’s population.

No wonder finding a stem cell match is still considered a miracle.

Want to make a miracle happen? All it takes from you is a cheek swab.

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See what I mean? Absolutely adorbs. (Photo courtesy of the Curran family)

It’s What We Call a Good Sport

They’d worked immensely hard and made extraordinary sacrifices to be able to compete at the Rio Olympic Games. And then suddenly, faster than you can say “I wish I’d tied my shoelaces,” two athletes tripped and went down in the middle of a race, apparently losing any chance at an Olympic medal.

It happened during the women’s 5,000-metre heat. New Zealand track-and-field athlete Nikki Hamblin unexpectedly fell. Then Abbey D’Agostino, an American, stumbled over her and went down.

Other runners streamed past as the women scrambled to recover from what had just happened. Abbey got up first. Did she dash away to try and make up her time? Not even for a second did she look tempted to leave Nikki in her dust. Instead, she bent to help her competitor to her feet.

As Nikki began to pick up the race, she turned to check on Abbey. Her fellow athlete was struggling and in pain. Nikki wouldn’t let her give up. She encouraged her to keep racing, and didn’t run until Abbey was on the move again. “Once you are on the track, there is a mutual understanding of what it takes to get there,” she explained to the International Olympic Committee after the event.

Such a cheer from the crowd when Abbey crossed the finish line – on an injured ankle, and after all the other athletes had marked their time. And such a tight, emotional embrace she shared with Nikki, who was standing by to watch her finish.

Neither athlete qualified for the final event. But in light of their unintentional collision on the track, they both successfully petitioned to participate.

Ultimately, though, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya set an Olympic record and took the gold in the 5,000-metre event. Nikki and Abbey finished the race in last place.

Did I say last? I meant to say, they’re both winners. This is true both metaphorically and actually: The IOC presented both women with Fair Play Awards for their selflessness and sportsmanship.

That’s the spirit.

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(Photo by Rachel M/FreeImages.com)

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Eight months ago, Bev York became a victim of theft. These robbers didn’t drive off with her car. They didn’t steal electronics or take any fancy jewellery. Rather, they made off with Bev’s 12-inch plastic garden gnome. Nipped it right out of her yard in Victoria, British Columbia.

Then they named it Leopold and took it on vacation.

The pranksters were obviously garden gnome liberationists, part of a curious worldwide movement to give garden gnomes a better, um, life. The family (evidence points to the fact that a toddler and two dogs were involved) drove Leopold southward, away from B.C., through Arizona and eventually to a beach in Mexico.

As per tradition, the crooks captured lots of photos of Leopold enjoying his adventures along the way. We can be certain about this because they put together a bound and captioned photo book that documented his time away. Eight months later they delivered this to Bev, along with her long-lost garden figurine.

According to record, Leopold saw the Grand Canyon, got close to a cactus and experienced sunsets on the beach. He also apparently enjoyed his drink; tequila shots and margaritas figure prominently. He took a bath.

Looting and pillaging is not normally considered to be much of a good deed. But Bev isn’t bitter over the temporary loss of her garden gnome. On the contrary, she’s absolutely delighted by the experience. She’s grateful for the photo gift. She acknowledges the hard work and thought that went into it. She even appreciates the higher standard of gnome hygiene (Leopold is cleaner now).

What does Bev think of the thieves? They’re “probably very nice people,” she says in a news story, and in fact hopes that next time, they’ll take her with her.

In this case, gnome news is good news.

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But I will NEVER stop thinking these are creepy. (Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Doctor is in

It’s bad luck to start choking on a bite of hamburger during what’s supposed to be a pleasant dining experience at your senior living facility.

But it’s very good luck to be sitting next to Dr. Henry Heimlich.

Today Patty Ris, 87, is alive – and thankful. And Dr. Heimlich, who is 96 years old and lives in the same Cincinnati seniors building as Ms Ris, finally understands what tens of thousands of others have already experienced: How it feels to rescue someone using the Heimlich manoeuvre.

The dining room’s maître d’ points out that the technique is actually quite a physical feat for someone who is not exactly young and spry. He also noted that staff would normally prevent residents from trying to administer first aid on one of their own in a medical emergency. “But I noticed it was Dr. Heimlich and he was doing the manoeuvre,” he told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I stepped back and let Dr. Heimlich continue on.”

What does the retired surgeon have to say about the unexpected turn of events? “I sort of felt wonderful about it, having saved that girl,” he told the reporter. (Side note: Is it not adorable that he refers to an 87-year-old woman as a “girl”? If he were any younger, we wouldn’t give him a pass on that one…)

“I knew it was working all over the world,” he added. “I just felt a satisfaction.”

According to some reports, this may not actually have been the first time Heimlich used his own lifesaving technique. But if that’s the case, it’s certainly slipped this doc’s mind by now. You can forgive him; the guy is, after all, almost 100 years old.

And if his memory isn’t perfect, his heart certainly makes up for it.

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Take care when you eat. Chances are, Dr. Heimlich isn’t sitting beside you. (FreeImages.com/Drew Broadley)

Disaster Relief

If you hadn’t heard much about Fort McMurray before, you know it well now. This region of western Canada has been under siege from spreading, uncontrolled forest fires – and it’s been in news all over the world. The stats are shocking. More than 80,000 people have been displaced from their homes, some initially to oilsands work camps up north because they had nowhere else to go. Many folks drove out of the city using sidewalks or wrong-way lanes just to put a bit more distance between their vehicles and the flying sparks of fire. Tragically, two people were killed in a road accident while trying to leave the city. About 1,600 buildings – mostly people’s houses – burned to the ground. Insurers say they’ve never seen a level of damage like this before – over 9 billion dollars’ worth, by one estimate. The narrative changes daily. As of Sunday, fire covered 161,000 hectares. That’s almost half the size of Long Island, New York.

Evacuees are telling stories that will make you cry: Pets lost to the fires. Family heirlooms and precious photos, gone forever. An iPhone security video of a living room becoming destroyed by flames and smoke. The homeowner watched it happen, live, soon after escaping with his wife.

But, of course, there are stories of compassion as well. So many touching accounts of people reaching out to those in need.

Like the group of Syrian refugees who leapt into rescue mode, collecting donations despite having almost nothing themselves, and telling media: “It’s not easy to lose everything… We can understand them more than anyone in Canada.”

Or the volunteer who retrieved dozens of stranded pets from abandoned houses – including a family’s cherished puppy and pet rabbit mere moments before their home caught fire. (He would have located the house much faster, had the street signs not melted.)

Or the sweet video created by caring students at Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation School, in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, who wanted to send messages of support so the disaster victims would know they’re not alone.

And, of course, we’ve seen the rise of countless fundraising campaigns all over the country, giving every one of us an opportunity to help.

My heart goes out to all those who are displaced or struggling with devastating losses right now. But my heart is also gladdened to know how much it matters to everyone else.

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FreeImages.com/Odan Jaeger