By SEAN DIETRICH
Thank you for holding the door for an old woman at Cracker Barrel. You must’ve been fourteen, you were with friends. You were laughing and carrying on when you saw the old woman, pushing a walker. You jogged ahead. You beat her to the door. You held it open.
She thanked you. You yes-ma’amed her. And you made my day, kid.
My whole day.
And thanks for giving money to a homeless man in Birmingham, Alabama. You don’t know me, but I watched you. I was at a stoplight. You were outside UAB School of Medicine campus. You wore green scrubs and carried a backpack. You gave money. Then, you gave a cup of coffee and a fast-food to-go bag.
Thanks for sitting with that young girl after work. She was seated on the sidewalk outside the bar. She was waiting for her ride. It was two in the morning. She didn’t need to be alone at that hour. So you sat with her. You might not think you did much, but you did.
Thank you for filling that backpack with food, then leaving it in a tenth grader’s locker — anonymously. You know who you are.
Thank you for working at Children’s of Alabama Hospital. Each one of you.
Thank you for picking up a hitchhiker outside Anniston, Alabama. Even though modern wisdom warns against this, you followed your heart.
When the hitchhiker stepped into your car, you could tell he had a mental illness. But you didn’t try to fix him, you didn’t try to be a hero, you didn’t try to do anything major. You were just nice to him. And he appreciated that.
Thanks for driving a kid named Peter to baseball practice. After his father died, his mother has been working double shifts. Peter has been babysitting and cooking supper for his sisters since his mother started working longer hours.
Peter had to drop out of baseball because he didn’t have a ride to and from practice. But you stepped in and saved the day. He’s a good baseball player, and you’re a good human being. Everybody wins.
Thanks for taking care of Miss Caroline’s dog while she was away, receiving chemotherapy. Miss Caroline is a little reclusive, she doesn’t have many friends. That dog is her baby. She didn’t want to leave it alone at home all day. She had no options. Then you came along.
So, thanks for watching the dog. And a double thanks for stocking Miss Caroline’s refrigerator. I wish you could’ve seen the look on her face when she opened the fridge to see casseroles, hams and grilled chicken.
And before I go, thank you for reading this. You might not know who I am — why should you? But I know you. Sort of. And you’ve changed me. Yes, you.
Remember, about twenty years ago, when you sent me an anonymous envelope with three hundred dollars in it, right after I lost my job?
Or how about the time you talked to me in the waiting room, when I was nervous about my wife’s biopsy.
There was the time you cooked for my mother, my baby sister and I after my father died.
And who can forget when you told me I was special after you finished teaching my college class. You said I had a lot to offer this world. Those words stuck with me.
The time you helped me change a tire on a busy highway in Mobile. The time you bought my lunch. The time you called just to check on me.
So to Miss Deena — who I once met selling parched peanuts on the side of the road in Andalusia. To Jason — who drives a van for a day camp for kids with PTSD issues. To Billie Jean — who leaves money at gas pumps just for the fun of it. And to the kid who held the door open for the old woman at Cracker Barrel.