Acts of Kindness

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange, as the grateful beneficiary of many acts of kindness, urges all of us to perform them whenever we can.

(LANGE) Eight of us geriatrics made camp beside a river north of the Arctic Circle – skies overcast, and a cold wind seeping through our clothes. On a hilltop a mile away stood a summer prospecting camp. A little after supper I looked up to see a lovely young lady striding across the tundra toward us. She introduced herself – Megan, the camp cook – and handed each of us a piece of cake. She’d seen through binoculars we were all old guys, and not very interesting. Still she took the trouble to be very nice, and we’ll never forget her.

Practice random acts of kindness. What a difference they can make! As a bumper sticker, it’s a little too cute. But the acts themselves – where would many of us be without them? Those of us in any kind of position to perform them need to remember when we were on the receiving end.

Over forty years ago Judge Murphy peered at me from his bench. “Mr. Lange,” he said, “in this state you are allowed eight points on your driver’s license in fourteen months. When you get them, the State takes that license from you for a period of time, at the end of which you are permitted to petition for its return.

“You have amassed fourteen points in eight months. So I’m taking your license. It should be for a minimum of one year. But I see that you have a truck-driving job waiting for you, and your wife is pregnant. So I’m taking it for thirty days. Go, and sin no more.”

My pals assured me I’d never see that license again. But on the thirtieth day, it was in my mailbox. Judge Murphy didn’t have to do that, perhaps even shouldn’t have. But I tip my hat to his memory whenever I pass that courthouse.

Some time later, I was working in the woods and, as the snow deepened, decided it was time to return to school. We had enough money to get there and to eat till I found a job, but not for tuition or books. Out of the blue, our bishop gave us enough money from his discretionary fund to get us through the first term. A year later I was teaching school. $3750 a year! We were on Easy Street.

A couple of years ago, our Geriatric canoe group was caught by huge tides and an icy nor’easter. We were making the best of it, but that wasn’t good enough. Laboriously we made our way to a nearby fishing camp.

A young lady opened the door. “How many?” she asked.

“Eight,” I answered, rainwater running down my face.

“Get ’em up here! It’s suppertime. You can shower and sleep in the bunkhouse.” Next day she’d take nothing for her hospitality. But she left us the obligation to pass it on.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer, and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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