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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

In Other Words: Should We Call Ourselves a City of Beautiful Hearts?

Simmons and Dorsey. Courtesy of Liz Geiman Dorsey
If aliens are monitoring our planet, then they must believe that we are extremely violent animals. After all, our broadcasts are dominated by all manner of mayhem.  But the truth is that those broadcasts reveal only the most salacious stories and seldom cover our daily kindnesses. And that’s what this column is about - kindness.
Bureau of Kindness logo on Facebook

So this how all of this developed. A friend told me about the wellness checks that Fort Thomas Police Lt. Rich Whitford conducted on one resident. So I asked. Whitford says, “When I was on patrol in the ’90s, I would see him sitting in a chair in his driveway all the time.  I ended up stopping to talk to him, and made it a habit.  He lived behind Woodfill…. I ended up calling him the Mayor of the neighborhood, ended up with just, The Mayor.” 

As it turned out, the elderly Mayor had much in common with the police. His name is Harold Simmons and they would run into each other over coffee at the Shell gas station. Whitford says, “His wife died a couple of years ago, and that hit him really hard.  We talked all the time, and I was worried about him after his wife's passing.”  And it’s nice just to just listen. “His other love was German dancing, he would go to the Hofbrauhaus to dance.  Another officer told me about his diagnosis with cancer, that it was all over his body and he didn't have long to live.  A couple of us would keep an eye on him after that, stopping by his house to check on him.  One time there, he told me he was having trouble going up the steps and stated he was really wanted an army cot for his basement.  He was in the Army.  I contacted Linda Slone, and she was able to get one from her husband Lonnie, retired Army.  We were in contact with his nephews during this time.”  This is more than just old soldiers looking out for each other; it’s the right thing to do.

Then there was another development in this theme of neighborly kindness. Turns out the Geiman family lived next door.

Laura Geiman picks up the theme. “Harold has been in our neighborhood since my parents moved there 35 years ago and has literally watched our family grow up. Throughout the years he has become a good family friend…. Harold recently was admitted to the VA hospital because of health conditions. Harold considers Liz one of his best buds, and was so upset he couldn’t make it to her wedding.”

Liz Geiman Dorsey picks up the story from her sister. “I used to work at Graeter's and I brought him a cake once which sealed our friendship. He would call me while I was away at college to see how my classes were going and was elated for me when I got my job as a flight attendant. He joins us for family dinners, holidays, and boat outings. He has met my friends, cousins, and Jordan (my husband) before most of my friends and family. He always has matter-of-fact advice about the most complex issues. He always kept a beer ready in the refrigerator for me when we'd sit in lawn chairs in the driveway together, or look through his record collection. His love of polka music and dancing at the Hofbrauhaus and German culture made him a celebrity at the restaurant.” 

By this point, Harold was in the VA nursing facility. She says, “It was important to see him on our big day because he is a part of our family. Leading up to the big day, he would tell me about how he and his wife Judy met (at a barn dance), and tell me how much he likes my now-husband, and how lucky Jordan is. We knew how much he wanted to be there, and wanted him to know how special he is to our family.” Since he couldn’t make the party, she brought the party to him.

Dorsey says, “We made a playful entrance to the nursing home. All of the ladies in the wedding and my dad lined up outside of his hall, and my sister turned on some polka music on her phone. The gals proceeded in, and then Dad walked me into the hall. The staff was so warm, so happy, and welcomed the nearly 15 of us so kindly. Harold was dressed up for the occasion, and Mom pinned a flower to his shirt.”

“I gave him a big hug, and he said, ‘Well Liz, you look sharp.’ We walked into the sitting area that had been cleared of chairs, and with a swift grab of my hand, we were spinning and twirling. The staff and bridal party were yodeling and clapping along.”  

A wedding is a bride’s big day. It’s about her. Instead Liz Geiman Dorsey shined the spotlight of kindness on someone else. Someone special.
Simmons and Dorsey dancing. Courtesy of Liz Geiman Dorsey. 
This is a sweet story and we see it repeated throughout neighborhoods across the globe. But there are things happening beyond our little patch on the planet.

I recently met with a young woman who tells a story about using kindness to deal with challenges. She wants to remain anonymous because the story is not about her but about actions.  For the sake of this story, I will refer to her as Mary.

Mary is a vibrant, passionate, thoughtful person. Her youngest child was born with Joubert Syndrome, a rare brain malformation that creates develop issues. She received a grant from Starfire. Their website says that “Starfire is a visionary organization working to build better lives for people with disabilities. Since 1993, Starfire has worked to create a more inclusive Cincinnati. Starfire is focused on decreasing the social isolation felt by people with disabilities.”  

So Mary asked. “What can we do to make them feel like part of the community?” Which, of course, led to a few other questions like “What do you want your child to be a part of in this community? What can you contribute to your community? What does your family care about?”

She has plans, but is not quite ready to reveal those. But she has created the Bureau of Kindness. They have a Facebook page. She says that “anyone can be a part of it. All you have to do is commit an act of kindness, report it on the website and you are a member.” One kindness will inspire another and another and another. That’s the idea.

Mary says that “If your heart is willing then you are a part of it.”  And that’s the key right there. Let your heart be willing. People are far kinder than the news lets on. Fort Thomas tags itself as a city of beautiful homes but she would like to tag it as a city of beautiful hearts. And there are lots of beautiful hearts living here.

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