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Remembering touching acts of kindness

Last month I wrote about kindnesses. It brought on a few very positive comments and had me scrounging through my memory bank to recall some more of the kindnesses I either received or witnessed:

• A cherished memory I have was of what my grandmother did for the poor and homeless men who came to our doorstep. At the time, Grandma lived with us on York Avenue here on the west side of good old Warren.

York teed into McMyler half a block away from us. It ran parallel to the B&O Railroad tracks. It was in the mid- to late 1930s, and I remember those men who came to our house in twos and threes after dropping off from a slowly passing freight train.

They were in tatters and were dirty, unshaven and smelly — but very respectful and friendly.

They would sit on our front porch steps while Grandma would scare up something for them to eat from whatever she could find in the kitchen — especially in our motor-topped refrigerator.

Since it was Grandma’s little secret, that I, as a 3- to 5-year-old, kept religiously, those poor, kind men would only show up on Friday mornings while Mom was at the beauty parlor.

Either Mom didn’t miss the disappearing food or, as I believe, she knew our little secret. She would just comment, with a little twinkle in her eye, on Grandma’s big appetite.

• My brother-in-law and I would build cellars during my summers off from college. He would lay the cinder block while I mixed the mortar and brought the blocks to him.

The cellar hole we had to work on was on a lot way out in the country, far from just about anything.

We had borrowed his cousin’s nearly new pickup truck. What started off as a beautiful summer day turned into a cloudburst. Our work day was over, and the once hard-compacted dirt lot had turned into a muddy morass.

Our efforts to leave for the day were absolutely futile. The truck, even after we off-loaded everything, would just sit there and spin its back tires, going ever deeper into the mud.

What to do? We had no access to a phone because farmhouses were miles away.

It continued to rain heavily, and nobody was expecting us to be home until much later in the day.

We just sat in the cab of the truck, soaked to our skin, listened to the pounding rain, and tried to figure out what to do. We could thumb our way home, but precious few cars went by on that rural road.

Suddenly, we heard the roar of a huge John Deere tractor as it pulled onto the lot. Without any comment to us, (we stayed in the truck), the driver hooked a chain to the truck, hopped onto the tractor and pulled us and the truck out to the macadam road.

As he unhooked the chain, we got out of the truck cab in the driving rain to very gratefully thank him. But he was already back on the tractor and

with just a little grunt, was on his way.

We never found out where he went, or how he ever knew that we needed help. What a kind deed this man did for us. But we had no opportunity to thank this wonderful angel of mercy. We never saw the man or the tractor again as, on nicer days, we finished our work on the cellar walls.

Incidentally, after we got home, it was my job to hose down and clean the mud off that pickup truck. I don’t think my brother-in-law’s cousin ever knew what his truck had gone through.

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