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Good hearts make the difference

Published November 03. 2012 09:02AM

Last Friday was one of those days when my heart was overflowing with joy and thanksgiving. I didn't think I could get any happier.

But then I opened my email and rejoiced even more. There was a surprise email from my old friend Rob.

How appropriate that his email arrived on Make A Difference Day. Rob has always made a difference for so many people, especially my late husband, Andy.

After Andy died, I wanted his ham radio equipment to go where Andy would want it. So I gave it to two fellows who made a difference for Andy, both Rob and my young friend, Dylan.

Dylan was just about to go in the service. He couldn't take the radio with him. "Don't worry. I'll keep it in my house and save it for him," Rob promised.

He was writing to let me know he kept his ten-year ago promise. He tried to give the radio to Dylan five years ago when he was home on leave but that didn't work. Last week, Rob tracked Dylan down and delivered the set.

I know my husband is looking down smiling at the two of them.

Let me tell you just some of the ways Dylan and Rob made a difference for Andy.

With two strokes and his right side paralyzed, Andy couldn't do photography or some of his former hobbies. He thought he might be interested in ham radio. But with only use of his left arm, he wasn't sure he could pass the tests for his license.

Rob often came to our house to help and encourage Andy. I was always impressed with how Rob gave my husband confidence and made him feel good about himself. In fact, no matter what happened, Rob could always be counted on to be there.

But here's the thing that made that a bit more remarkable. Rob was losing his sight and couldn't drive. To get anywhere, he had to take a bus and walk long distances. Plus, he had plenty of his own serious health problems.

That would make a lesser man think of himself instead of getting out there to help others. Rob doesn't waste his energy pitying himself. Instead, he is always looking to see what he can do to help someone else.

My young friend Dylan also helped in so many ways to make a difference in my husband's life. As a high school student he often walked to see Andy, doing whatever my husband needed, no matter how time consuming.

He was there for me, too. When Andy could no longer help decorate the Christmas tree, getting it up became a hassle for me.

Dylan helped me string lights, then cheerfully did it all over again when Andy decided he wanted it done differently. When life gets tough, those who are struggling can often feel alone. But what I found is that there are plenty of good hearts like Dylan and Rob who go out of their way to make a difference.

As everyone knows by now, last Friday was National Make a Difference Day. People were encouraged to get involved by doing a good deed or helping someone in need.

Luckily, there are plenty of good people who don't wait for Make a Difference Day. They do it all year.

You don't have to reach a certain age before you can make a difference. Nor do you have to spend a lot of money.

One young girl in middle school wanted to help the homeless. So she pulled the bedding off her own bed then went around collecting blankets in her neighborhood.

When she had a birthday, she asked friends to bring something to donate to the homeless instead of buying her gifts.

This youngster isn't rich but she sure is rich in spirit.

I did a story last week about another sixth grade boy who wiped out his savings to buy needed textbooks for his science class. Because there was a shortage of books and there was no money left in the school budget, the class was doubling up to read the material and no one could take the books home.

When Christopher told his mother he wanted to wipe out his bank account so he could buy the books for his class, she said no.

"You told me if I saved my money in the bank I could use it to do whatever I want with it," he retorted. "I want to use it for the books."

He was saving for a particular new video game he wanted. But he used the money instead for the books.

His parents warned him they wouldn't buy the game for him. "We bring him up to know that if he wants something, even school supplies, he has to work for it. We don't give him money," said his mother.

She was proud of her son when his school presented him with its Make a Difference Award.

Most people don't get awards for good deeds. But they do have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make the world a better place.

There is so much we can each do for others. It doesn't have to be something grand. But simple acts of kindness can mean so much to those who need a bit of help.

Hats off to all those like Rob and Dylan who do, indeed, try to make a difference.

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