Leland Thoburn: Amid pervasive negativity, some stories from the 'hopeful' files

Public domain photo from U.S. News & World Report ##In this 1963 photo, then-Gov. George C. Wallace blocks door in attempt to thwart integration of the University of Alabama. He later renounced his racist past and helped round up votes for racial justice legislation.
Public domain photo from U.S. News & World Report ##In this 1963 photo, then-Gov. George C. Wallace blocks door in attempt to thwart integration of the University of Alabama. He later renounced his racist past and helped round up votes for racial justice legislation.

If you believe the national media, we are governed by a gaggle of nitwits, our cities are inhabited by the walking dead and the world is little more than a petri dish for war.

It isn’t true, folks. Well maybe the nitwits part.

No, really. There are far more hobbits than orcs. There is so much good done by our fellow man that it behooves us to take a break every once in a while, disagree with the onslaught of bad news and stand in awe of the virtue that surrounds us.

To help you do that, I thought I’d share some of my favorite examples of humanity’s goodness. From acts that changed the course of history to acts that simply changed someone’s day, I invite you to take a moment to warm yourself in the glow of your fellow man’s charity.


George Wallace and the demise of hate

In 1963, George Wallace was sworn in as governor of Alabama. His inaugural speech was written for him by the head of the local KKK.

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” he vowed.

He was not one to shirk his promises. He sent armed state troopers to attack civil rights marchers and attempted to thwart federally ordered segregation by ordering the closure of the state’s public schools.

He personally led blockades of both the University of Alabama and local elementary schools in an attempt to bar African Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. called Wallace “the most dangerous racist in America.”

In 1972, Wallace decided to ride his populist wave to the White House. Among his 14 democratic primary opponents was Shirley Chisholm, a black congresswoman from New York.

They could not have been more different. While Wallace sat securely on the segregation throne, Chisholm preached racial equality and a “bloodless revolution.”

She did not get her wish. On May 15, 1972, Wallace was shot five times by a man seeking no more than notoriety.

Wallace would be paralyzed for life. As he lay in his hospital bed, he was visited by Chisholm.

She was not there to remonstrate, but to commiserate. “I wouldn’t want what happened to you to happen to anyone,” she told him.

She discussed political issues on which she knew she and Wallace agreed. In response, he cried. And cried and cried.

Her visit lasted just 15 minutes, but “it was after her visit that he started to change,” recalled his daughter, Peggy.

Two years later, Wallace rallied support among Southern congressmen for legislation Chisholm had authored to guarantee domestic workers a minimum wage, a bill largely benefiting people of color.

In 1979, he became a born-again Christian. For the remainder of his life, he would seek the forgiveness of Alabama’s African-American community.

“I did stand, with a majority of white people, for the separation of the schools,” he told them. “But that was wrong, and that will never come back again.”


Crime and … forgiveness?

In October 2013, Florida police officer Vicki Thomas was called to a Publix supermarket in Miami. It seemed Jessica Robles had been apprehended by store security trying to steal $300 worth of groceries.

Upon questioning Ms. Robles, Officer Thomas found she was a desperate single mother with no money to feed her children. The officer ran a background check, finding she had no criminal record.

“She touched me,” Officer Thomas said. “I could relate. I was a single mom and, without the help of my family, that could have been me.”

Instead of arresting her, Officer Thomas bought the woman groceries to take home to her family, and told her the location of local charities and food banks that would help. News of Officer Thomas’ charitable act spread, and Ms. Robles received multiple offers of help, including a job offer, from like-minded good Samaritans.

The same year, Jessica Eaves, an Oklahoma mother of four, was grocery shopping when she discovered her wallet was missing.

There was only one man in the aisle with her. Rather than call for help, she approached the man directly.

“Sir, my wallet’s missing out of my purse and you were the only other person in the aisle,” Eaves said, confronting the man.

She gave him an ultimatum. He could either return her wallet and she would buy him some groceries or she would take his photo and call police.

“He just kind of stared at me for a second and he reached into his hoodie pocket and handed it to me,” Eaves said.

After she purchased $27 worth of groceries, the man started crying and apologized for his behavior. “The last thing he said to me,” she recalled, “was ‘I’m embarrassed, I have kids, I’m broke and I’m sorry.’”

News of her bravery and compassion likewise went viral. “What I did that day should be the norm,” she said.


Going, going …

On April 26, 2008, Central Washington University’s women’s softball team faced Western Oregon for its playoff life.

Loss would mean elimination. And for seniors like first baseman Mallory Holtman, loss would mean the end of their college softball career.

It was the second inning, and Western Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky was at bat. Tucholsky had never hit a home run before in her life, but with a runner on first base that’s exactly what she did.

As she rounded first base, her foot missed the bag. She turned to go back, but when she did her cleats stuck in the dirt, tearing ligaments in her right knee. She fell to the ground, writhing in pain.

As she lay, unable to move, the umpires conferred. They ruled that if any of her teammates helped her, she would be ruled out. If a pinch runner substituted for her, her home run would be ruled a single.

Washington’s Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace then did what would make this story an example of sportsmanship for the ages. The two of them picked up Tucholsky and carried her around the bases, stopping to let her touch each base as she passed, securing the home run that could potentially end their team’s playoff hopes and Holtman’s college career.

This act of sportsmanship won an ESPY for best sports moment of 2008, and made Sports Illustrated’s list of the decade’s 10 best acts of sportsmanship.


Caring for others

Chaplain and shelter co-manager Asma Inge-Hanif answered the phone. The caller told her she had awakened that morning to her boyfriend holding a knife, threatening to kill her. She wondered if she could come to Baltimore’s Muslimat Al Nisaa shelter in two weeks to check in.

“What makes you think you have two weeks?” Inge-Hanif asked. She encouraged the woman to leave immediately.

Inge-Hanif, a licensed nurse, had opened the shelter in 2005. Its mission was providing lodging, food, health, education and social services to Muslim victims of domestic and sexual abuse, regardless of their ability to pay.

The woman on the phone was typical of those she served.

MSNBC had reported on her work. She had attended forums at the White House and United Nations.

But service to others takes its toll. “I never have that moment where I am free from responsibility and can just relax,” she said.

In 2013, her mother lay dying in North Carolina.

Inge-Hanif who had no home of her own and no salary, so could not afford to bring her mother to Baltimore for care. And the failure was crushing.

“I need help,” she said. “Sometimes, I just want someone to talk to.”

In response, friends launched an Internet campaign to raise funds. Their target was $14,400, but they had soon raised $59,000.

Fast forward to 2020.

Those funds had long been exhausted, Inge-Hanif had nearly died from COVID, and the charity had lost its lease, forcing it to scale back in a make-do location. But she would not be deterred.

“I came from this type of environment,” she said. “I know what it feels like. And I know how people look at you and treat you when you have less,” she said.

As she was recovering from COVID, she was also preparing to assist an anticipated flood of refugees from Afghanistan. “Every day I get seven to 10 requests for shelter and housing, and I can’t help them,” she lamented.

Fortunately, help was on its way.

In September 2020, she received a Purple Ribbon Award accompanied by a $10,000 grant. That would allow her to continue — for a while at least, until the next crisis.


I hope you’ve enjoyed our little hiatus from the tsunami of bad news. We had fun with this and invite you to join in.

If you have an example to share of humankind’s charity, goodness, generosity or selflessness, send us an e-mail at news@newsregister.com. Include the words “Good News” in the subject line.

As time and space permit, we will publish ongoing compilations of the best of humankind’s goodness — which is, after all, the real source of hope for our future.

Guest writer Leland Thoburn is a retired business consultant who has been making his home in McMinnville’s West Hills neighborhood for 11 years. He has been a writer all his life, but didn’t start writing professionally until 2007. He has had more than 100 articles and short stories published since that time, the articles focusing mostly on civil liberties. 


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