The good that people can do


A few days ago, I read about an effort that the Chicago Cubs were making for tornado relief in Central Illinois. Rather than asking for money (although I’m sure they accepted that, too) the Cubs were gathering up supplies and then driving what they collected down to the Washington/Pekin areas where they are needed.

I grabbed a few paper goods from my basement, and dropped them off at Wrigley Field on Thursday morning. It wasn’t much, and I freely admitted that to the world. But at the same time, I felt good about doing it. Some donated more than I did, of course, but the vast majority of people gave nothing at all. Just to be included among those that gave made me feel very positive.

The thing about giving, like anything else, is that it’s completely voluntary. Some can give, but most can’t or don’t, for whatever reason. Inertia is probably the main culprit. I know that’s typically the case for me and disaster relief situations. I feel bad for people affected by the storms, but when it comes to doing anything more than that, I had never really have donated anything before. But the proximity of the tornadoes last Sunday to the Chicago area finally compelled me to do something. Illinois is my home, and damage done here means more to me than it would any place else.

I donated some paper goods, and challenged others to do the same. Many people did exactly that, as the above picture shows. Whatever I donated is somewhere in that shot, and by now it has all been delivered to those in need. Hats off to all of us who kicked in and gave something, no matter what it was.

Today was a colder than usual day here in Chicago, and in the areas that were affected by the storms, too. Clearing the damage that nature caused is going to take a long time, and the short, cold days will make the process that much more difficult. The calendar will say it’s the holiday season in parts of central Illinois, but it won’t look very much like Christmas this year.

People have stepped up to help, and that’s inspiring on so many levels. But the need will linger for some time, and I’ve read that relief donations usually dwindle over time. I hope that doesn’t happen here, because there’s plenty of short, cold days ahead.

All around the world

When I was a kid growing up, I used to dream about the world outside of where I lived. I wasn’t near any airports, so the only time I ever got to see airplanes were when they were high up in the sky. I told myself that the people on those planes were probably going to visit interesting and exotic places. I, on the other hand, was still stuck in central Illinois.

The first time I ever rode in an airplane, I was 21 years old and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I haven’t exactly criss-crossed the globe since then, but I’ve seen a lot more of the world than I once thought I would. There’s so many more places to see, and hopefully I’ll get to some of them in the years ahead. New Zealand is particularly high on my list, but almost any place I haven’t seen before would be good enough for me.

WordPress recently began breaking down blog views by the different countries that they originate from, and it’s been quite an eye-opener for me. Things that I’ve written on my computer in Chicago have found their way into more than 100 countries around the world. Today, for instance, people in Mexico, Spain, and Australia have accessed something or another from this website. Most of the page views have come from the U.S.A., but I’m shocked at how far-flung the traffic has been. It’s International love, indeed.

So even if I’ve never been south of the Equator before, and have only a vague idea where Montenegro and Gibraltar are located on the globe, someone in those places has come across something that I wrote. And the kid who used to watch airplanes high up in the sky would be very impressed by that, indeed.

A tip of the cap is in order

This story comes straight from the You-can’t-make-this-up file: A Cubs fan is driving along a highway when he sees some debris from a car wreck. Among that debris is a St. Louis Cardinals World Series Champions hat, which can’t be more than two weeks old, signed by several of the team’s players. He’s a Cubs fan, but he wants the Cardinals fan who lost this souvenir to get it back, so he goes to the local newspaper, has it photographed, and gives his conditions for the fan who wants to get it back. A more detailed account of the story is here.

This Cubs fan had to overcome a couple of different urges to get to this point. The first is the human greed that might have seen dollar signs all over this cap. A hat like this is certainly unique, and if that many players signed it, somebody will offer a lot of money to have that become their hat. Listing it on eBay would be perfectly legitimate, but it would also feel like the slimiest possible path to go down, and kudos to him for not doing so.

Another urge, although less pronounced, would be to pick it up and show it off like the spoils of conquest. Particularly in Central Illinois, Cubs fans have to live with constant reminders of their more successful rivals in Missouri, and this hat had to appear like an even bigger reminder than usual. There they are, all of the Cardinals World Series heroes, all in one place. Even Ryan Theriot’s name appears to be there, who was once a Cubs fan but now has become the Enemy. Why on earth would a Cardinals fan, who couldn’t hang on to such a prized item, deserve to get it back? I’m not saying I would think this way, but I could understand the thought process, at least.

The final urge might have been to just leave it alone. I’ve often wondered, if I was Kyle McLaughlin’s character in Blue Velvet, would I have stopped in that field to pick up the severed ear lying on the ground? I have to believe I would have kept walking on, and just tried to forget I ever saw anything at all. Granted, a signed Cardinals hat and a severed ear are two different things, but the impulse to just leave it alone, and avoid all the complications that could follow from picking up the hat, would have at least crossed my mind for a split second.

I hope this story ends well. I hope that the Cubs fan who found the hat doesn’t get dozens of replies from people, all of  them swearing up and down that it’s their hat. In fact, anything more than one reply will dampen this story for me, because I want to believe that the person who lost it will reply, and that no one else will see this as an opportunity to score themselves a potentially valuable hat.

My view of human nature is on the line here, people. Make me proud.