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Thor Harley 3-25

I send an e-mail to Thor (shown above), who is both my next-youngest brother and my prime partner in –

Boneheaded stunts, charges Screen Three.

– adventure, writing him about a kindness we’d shown a Red Robin restaurant waitress at Christmastime.

Curious, comments Three, you sharing these stories now instead of the holidays.

Two wisely adds, The idea is to practice kindness year-round.

“We used our $50 gift card to pay the $30.18 dinner bill. Laura suggested we tip the $20 remaining to our wonderful waitress, LynnAnn. I wrote on the receipt, ‘Your service is exceptional. So was His birth. This tip really is a gift from Him to you.’

“The young woman caught us at the door, crying hard and shaking in gratefulness.”

Thor humbly fills us in on his own cold-weather kindness.

What’s he do? asks Four. Beat your tip with a $50?

Waiting at the gas station to use the air machine, I offer my pressure tire gauge to the person in front of me. Apparently he is physically unable to speak, so he motions “thank you” back to me.

As I watch him put air in his tires and check the pressure, I notice his truck is beat up, his clothes are old and ripped, and the very soles of his sneakers are coming off as he walks around his vehicle. I know what I am to do.

Right there, I slide my shoes off and give them to him. He is grateful, so grateful, and he repeatedly signs his thanks. I sign back the only word I know – “love” – and the man drives away.

I step up to the machine, drop my coins in and begin to put air in my tires. As I do so, another car pulls up beside me and the driver rolls down his window. “Hey,” he says, “did you just give your shoes to that guy?”


“I saw it,” he says simply. “I watched you. I witnessed that. I saw you, man.”

We fall silent; he in his car, me on the chilling pavement. Then he shakes his head. “Very powerful,” he says, and slowly drives away.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are the greatest miracles.

Barry & Lisa 4I share Thor’s story with the rest of the family. An e-mail immediately pops in from Miss Lisa, the lovely lady of my youngest brother, Barry. As if she weren’t already special in Barry’s eyes for her beauty, character and the single-handed manner in which she is raising Hunter (her exceptional son) … she’s also his spearfishing buddy.

She’s his buddy on those days she doesn’t outshoot him, mocks Six.

Miss Lisa’s message today, however, isn’t about the latest sharks Barry’s swum through, or the ocean swells they’ve had to fight. It isn’t about their fill of living; it’s about the thrill of giving.

After our bellies are full and Christmas wrapping paper is strewn about the living room, Barry herds Hunter and me out to the car, where a neatly wrapped gift rests on the back seat. Still wearing our pajamas, we drive through [the town of] Siesta. Before long, we pull off to the side of the road and park across from a homeless man in his wheelchair.

Barry picks up the neatly wrapped package, asks, “Are you guys coming?” We three approach the man, who is bundled in blankets. Barry says, “Excuse me, sir. My family and I would like you to have this gift.”

The man smiles gingerly, thanks us and gently peels the paper back. I see a jacket that once belonged to my late stepfather and know I’ll never forget this Christmas morning.

Other similar sibling stories arrive, each recounting a life touched, a heart assured, a person changed. Our persevering Parental Units taught the Blackwell brood well in reaching out to those who are less fortunate.

Beth Morris 2011Better yet, the lesson handed down to us is caught by the Next Generation, as evidenced by tales rolling in from sons, daughters, nephews, nieces.

And best still are the quiet admissions of friends, such as this from high school prom date Beth Rhodes Morris:

When I visited you in the hospital after one of your many reconstructive surgeries years ago –

 Ahh, sighs Five, the good old days, when you could still be stitched together.

 –  you told me that earlier the same morn, nurses tsk-tsk’ed about a little boy whose parents never came to see him. It broke my heart. I bought a big set of Legos, wrapping them up with a giant bow – the tag said, “Love, Jesus” so he wouldn’t know who gave it to him – and I put it on his bed. I walked by later and saw him wildly ripping off the paper.

 All while the boy was away, notes Six. All without a word to you. Bravo!

“Not quite done, Six. There’s also one last great story, this about Tim Sickel, another former classmate.”

Did your high school’s curriculum include kindness? wonders Four.

ToolMan Tim SickelToolMan Tim’s post-Hurricane Andrew assistance proves so effective that a Marine Corps general offers full availability of troops and supplies, leading to homes being rebuilt by the hundreds and people being fed by the tens of thousands. Tim’s powerful and contagious volunteerism – his “reckless rescuing” – prompts work crews throughout America to follow him, even to this day.

Says Six, You talk about “PopSickel” having a giving heart, but the guy definitely benefits from all this.

“What are you talking about?” I ask, thunderstruck.

The West Des Moines floods in Iowa in ’93. Tim left Florida to go there for weeks of volunteering.

“What about it?”

While Mr. Selfless was there, he rebuilt the flooded home of a Valley Junction woman named Vicki. She fell in love with your hero.

 “So what?”

 So three years later, Miss Vickie married him at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

 “Your point?”

 Tim’s just in it for the honey.

The little things are the greatest miracles.

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Postscript: Last Sunday, ToolMan Tim Sickel and his faithful team of diehards were in the very midst of rebuilding New Jersey’s shoreline communities (which are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy) when they saw heavy smoke plumes arising half a mile away.

To their horror, they discovered the boardwalk, just rebuilt after Sandy destroyed the longstanding original, had caught fire. At great personal risk, the PopSickel People labored on, fearlessly repairing some homes and building new portions for others.

Those hard-working volunteers are proof positive that good doesn’t have to end …

And that the Great just keep giving.

Post-Postscript: We’ve been without three generations of Blackwells ever since we lost Mom and Pop a few years back. Good news for us (and tough for the Feds!) is that my twin, Dianne, became a GRANDMOTHER on Sept. 14. We join son Jason and dazzling daughter-in-law Katie in welcoming Camden Edward Strete, the first of that Next Generation!


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