David Bruce: Don’t Fear the Reaper — Friends, Good Deeds

Friends

• One of the things that Molly Ringwald most admires about very young children is their ability to easily make friends. At a playground where her daughter, Mathilda, was playing, Molly saw a young girl tap Mathilda on the shoulder and ask, “What’s your name?” Mathilda told her, and asked the young girl her name, which turned to be Elle. Mathilda then said, “I like cats.” Elle replied, “Me, too. Let’s be friends!” And they were friends.

Good Deeds

• Richard Semmler, who teaches calculus and algebra at Northern Virginia Community College, is dedicated to giving money to charity. In 2005, he reached approximately $770,000 in the total amount of charitable donations he had made since graduating from college, and he hoped to give $1 million to charity before he retired. He is able to donate so much money to charity by living simply and working additional part-time jobs so that he can give away half or more of his income. He said, “If I didn’t do all of the things I was doing, I would probably have a new car every two years and I would have a huge house with a huge pool. But I would not do it that way. I want to do it this way.” In 2004, Mr. Semmler made $100,000 and donated $60,000 to charity. His main employer is a beneficiary of his generosity; he has donated $355,000 to fund scholarships there. Another beneficiary of his generosity is his alma mater, Plattsburgh State University of New York, to which he has donated $200,000. Other beneficiaries of his generosity include various evangelical Christian organizations. He knows where his money goes. For example, he donated $100,000 for a Habitat for Humanity house that he helped build. He said, “Most of my dollars go to very specific projects, so I know what I’m funding. I want to see my dollars at work.” By the way, his generosity started with a $25 donation to his alma mater after he graduated in 1968. He said, “That’s the snowball that started rolling. As it did, it got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

• In 1978, the car of Catherine Ryan Hyde caught fire in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles. Two men began running toward her, and she thought that she was about to die. But instead of killing her, the two men used a blanket to put out the fire. In part as a result of that act of kindness, she wrote a novel that she titled Pay It Forward, which was published in 2000 and which became a 2001 movie starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment. One woman who was inspired by Ms. Hyde’s novel is Christina Van Blake. After Ms. Van Blake lost her job in February 2009, she became depressed. As a way to fight depression, she offered to design a room free of charge, provided that the recipient of the free design do three good deeds. In six months, she had 80 clients, and she documented 240 good deeds done by those clients. She also created a Design It Forward Web site and passed her idea on to other interior designers. Martinha Javid and Joyce Heathcote formed the Rhode Island chapter of Design It Forward. Ms. Javid said, “When you come home to a space that’s beautiful, you just feel good.” Ms. Heathcote added, “I think we all hope as designers that maybe this will lead to business for us, but it’s not our main goal. Our main goal is to change people’s perspective and have them recognize opportunities to do something for someone else.”

• In Buffalo, New York, Waldemar Kaminski, ran a food stand in Broadway Market for over 50 years. He invested his money in the stock market, grew rich, and without publicity gave away millions of dollars. After his death in 2006, many recipients of his charity came forward. Anne Gioia, co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a medical facility to which Mr. Kaminski gave many millions of dollars, said, “He didn’t want anyone to know him, but I just had to thank him. Now I think we should shout it from the rooftops.” Mr. Kaminski donated $1 million for an endowed chair in pediatrics for the facility; he also donated $1 million to build a two-acre park for the campus of the facility. Ms. Gioia said, “He felt that if you died a wealthy person, you had not lived a worthwhile life.” He gave to many other charities as well, and he also helped individual families with college tuition and with mortgage payments. One of his nieces, Marsha Kaminski, who lives in Oakland, CA, said, “It wasn’t a handout. He was supportive and helped them maintain their dignity. If they were helping themselves, he wanted to help, too.” She added, “He didn’t need the material things for happiness. He enjoyed just being with people and doing what he could for them.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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