There’s a lot of negativity if not downright sadness in the world, and the U.S. encountered yet another tragedy on July 16 when five military personnel were gunned down at a recruiting center and military base in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Such sadness can shake a country, and this awful event comes in the wake of heated debates on various social issues: whether Caitlyn Jenner deserves awards and so much publicity for undergoing a transgender surgery, the Supreme Court making it federal law that homosexuals can marry and whether South Carolina should take down the Confederate flag from its state capitol.
Arguments can get ugly when such debates ensue. They can make people look really bad.
But remember, there’s still a lot of good news out there—things we can all agree are noble—and that has been evident around the 19th Ward lately in talking to local residents, people just like you and me.
Take June 18, for example, at Beacon Therapeutic and Diagnostics Center on 107th Street and Longwood Drive. Dozens of folks put an entire playground together over the course of just one day—a true team effort.
On June 27 at Kellogg Elementary School, a similar scene unfolded. Dozens of volunteers painted, gardened and cleaned up around the school, giving the school a makeover in one day. A large “It’s cool to be kind” sign now dons the fence on the west side of the campus.
One of the volunteers that day was Emmett Campbell, who had just finished sixth grade at the school. Another was lifelong North Beverly resident Liz Cumpian, who works for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which joined with Chicago Cares to complete the project.
I had just met Cumpian, a nurse, about a week earlier, when we spoke about her organizing a fundraiser to help the relief efforts after the earthquakes in Nepal earlier this year.
It’s a small world, but it shows that one person can make a big difference.
On July 14, the good deeds continued around the neighborhood. That morning, residents around 108th Place and Hoyne Avenue threw a surprise retirement party for their longtime mail carrier, Rayfield Crowley. You can read about his story in the July 22 issue.
You might be sitting there wondering what neighborhoods throw parties for their mailman, and I’ll say this: mine.
When Boykin Stewart, the mailman around my old stomping grounds on 106th Street and Bell Avenue, retired in 2012, the same thing happened: residents threw a party for him at Cork and Kerry Tavern.
The similarities between Crowley and Stewart are striking: both were more like family members to local residents, guys who watched kids grow up and even came to a resident’s rescue when they noticed something “different” while they delivered mail. For Crowley, it meant coming to the aid of an elderly resident when he noticed she hadn’t come to the door two days in a row; she had fallen, and Crowley and a neighbor helped her.
In Stewart’s case, he noticed mail piling up outside my old next-door neighbor’s home about five years ago; he contacted family members, and they discovered our neighbor had suffered a stroke.
Crowley’s celebration wasn’t the only surprise celebration that day in the ward. At Beverly Park, residents honored longtime park supervisor Sue Kukulski with “Ms. Sue Appreciation Day,” a celebration for a woman known for sending out birthday cards to former campers and sports league participants well after they’ve finished playing at the park. Her story is also in the July 22 issue.
Kukulski looked genuinely stunned as the festivities went on.
After the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, amidst all the prayers and seemingly well-intended messages people posted on social media, comedian Patton Oswalt offered an inspiring, refreshing take: the evil in the world makes up only a “tiny sliver” of the population, and remember, people were also running toward the site of the bombings to help out.
As Oswalt said in regard to those who embrace bigotry, intolerance or violence, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
Fortunately, I’ve been reminded of that many times this summer in the 19th Ward.