May 25, 2003: A Salute To Those Who Do Good Deeds

Rats. I had a wonderfully acerbic column teed up and ready to go this week. The column likely would have given some special-interest twits a major case of hyperventilation – at least that was my intention. Then I heard Gil Watson, one of the great preachers on this planet, observe from the pulpit about how extraordinarily negative we have all become. Dr. Gil opined that we seem more concerned these days about finding fault in everything and everybody than in appreciating the good things going on around us. He is much too fine a man to say so, but I suspect he had the media in mind as one of the main sources for all the negative vibes. As much as I hate to admit it, he happens to be spot-on correct and I, for one, am going to do something about it. Rather than sticking it to the twits as I had planned, I am going to focus instead on good news this week. Admittedly, this is a little awkward for me, but maybe it will impress the preacher that I was awake during his sermon.

You don’t have to look far to recognize that a lot of people are doing good things — educating us, protecting us, healing us and praying for us. Many, many people give their time and talents as community volunteers, a uniquely American trait.

Alyssa Barnes, for example, is the daughter of former Governor and Mrs. Roy Barnes. She is an exceptional young woman who is working with the Georgia World Congress Center to develop a playground in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park that will allow children with special needs or disabilities to play side-by-side with other children. The project has the full support of Governor Sonny Perdue, proving that important things in this world transcend politics. The financial backers and organizers for this play area have raised some money, but they could use a lot more. Alyssa says that more than 70,000 children in Georgia have special needs. When she gets the park up and running in Atlanta, she plans to do the same in other cities in Georgia.

Mary Todd is a colleague from BellSouth days. Like me, she was looking forward to a well-deserved retirement (is there any other kind?), but Mary and I grew up in a company with a strong culture of putting something back into the communities we serve. Not long after retiring, she and husband, Bill, were asked to head a fund-raising effort for a hospice in Gwinnett County. The Todds took on the responsibility and now find themselves co-chairs of the board of directors of Peachtree Christian Hospice, which opened its doors in the fall of 2000 and serves a number of Georgia counties. While the Todds are working harder in retirement than either of them ever intended, the result of their labors is an outstanding facility providing quality care for terminally ill patients and their families.

Ruhannah Neal is an alumni relations coordinator at the University of Georgia, who looked around one day and realized she had a lot of “stuff” she didn’t need and would never use. She could have let it continue to collect dust. Instead, she sold much of the family’s silver, china, linens and crystal and sent the funds to a friend in Nigeria who has established a shelter for women and children in that country. What a great idea!

Thousands of others do good deeds that are equally worthy and yet their work goes unnoticed — people who volunteer at homeless shelters, pick up roadside litter, provide meals to shut-ins and befriend the friendless. They don’t do their good deeds because they have to. They do them because it is the right thing to do. My mentor, the late Jasper Dorsey, said that we are put on this earth for only one purpose: to leave things better than we found them. Thank God for the people who accomplish that task. As for the rest of us, maybe we should take a long look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether the world is better because we are here. I have a feeling we might not like the answer.