Walking On A Tightrope
He needed to see what was hanging in the window, so he quickly spun his head around despite balancing precariously on the beam. It was like he was walking a tightrope. He was cautious as he rotated on his heel, ensuring that every step he made wouldn’t result in him falling 30 feet to the ground below.
But he almost lost his balance when he read what was written.
88-year-old Gloria Porter from Connellsville, Pennsylvania was having a rough week. She stared out her third-story window and sighed. Pneumonia is serious, but for someone her age, it could even be fatal.
Her children and grandchildren visited her every day, but she when they left, the silence in her room seemed deafening.
Winter was coming to Pennsylvania. Gloria could feel it in her bones. The cold tendrils crept through the city, underneath the windows and doors. She kept herself occupied by looking out her window, and she saw the leaves falling.
People tucked their chins into their collars and scurried by, far below. Then one day, the tedium of her window-gazing was broken by another movement.
Gloria heard the clanging of metal and saw an orange flicker on the wall of her hospital room early one morning. Curious, she carefully got out of bed and walked to the window to see what was going on.
The orange sparks flying from above rained down in a brilliant arc, and she was mesmerized.
After an entire week of boredom, Gloria finally had something interesting to watch from her window. She peered intently at the ironworkers who were reconstructing the entrance of the Excela Frick Hospital.
As she watched them perched high on their scaffolding, she worried for their safety. And she was right to be worried.
Gloria watched the ironworkers shaping the colossal steel structure for a while until one of the workers looked over at her window and their eyes locked. Then, he slowly raised his hand and waved at her.
Gloria was delighted. She had felt so alone, up high on the third floor, and it warmed her heart to be acknowledged. Then, suddenly, the man was gone.
Jeff Reick had been an ironworker for years. He loved watching the metal bend under his hands and become something new. But he knew of the dangers he faced every day, working a hundred feet above the ground.
He was always sure to take precautions. But he had seen it all go horribly wrong before.
When Jeff spotted the little old lady watching him from her hospital window, his heart went out to her. She looked so lonely. She reminded him of his own grandmother who had passed away when he was in his twenties.
And he didn’t quite know why, but he worried about her, standing all alone at the window every day.
Jeff ran down the ladder as fast as he dared, and managed to find some chalk in his toolbox. Then he climbed back up to the scaffolding that was directly in line with Gloria’s window. He waved again to get her attention.
When she looked up, she read the message he had written for her, and her eyes filled with tears.
“GET WELL” was scrawled clumsily on the side of the horizontal bar of metal in white chalk. Gloria was touched. Such a small gesture worked its way right into her heart. So she called the nurse on duty and asked for help with putting together a message of her own.
And when Jeff saw it, it was his turn to cry.
Gloria scribbled two words on a large piece of white paper and pressed it to the window. When Jeff saw the sign, the words hit him so hard that his heart ached. How could this little old lady possibly know ironworker lingo?
The phrase she wrote was simple: “STAY SAFE”. And Jeff and his crew needed that reminder that day.
The cold winter weather had brought snow with it, making Jeff’s work treacherous. It was a difficult enough task to be mindful of his footing in fair weather conditions, but the snow left a dangerous and icy slick on the metal they were all balancing on.
The ironworkers couldn’t afford even one misstep.
Sharing With The World
Jeff was so touched by Gloria’s concern for their safety that he took to Facebook and posted the simple exchange. But he never expected one small interaction between strangers to go viral so quickly.
Soon, the local news had picked up the story, and this inspired the people of America to organize kind acts of their own.
A few days after Jeff and Gloria’s heartwarming yet simple exchange, Gloria was given the all-clear by her doctors and discharged from the hospital. She had no idea that Jeff’s post about her heartfelt note was gaining such traction worldwide.
Then, a lady arrived at the hospital with a note in her hand.
The woman had seen the story on the news, and the philosophy of performing a simple act of kindness for a complete stranger was catching all over Pennsylvania.
The note in the woman’s hand was for the ironworkers at the hospital, and it read: “Your random act of kindness melted my heart!! Enjoy!! Have some pizza on me!!”
When Jeff and his crew opened the envelope, they were floored. Inside was money for them all to treat themselves to some lunch! Jeff was incredibly touched to know that the people of the city cared about the ironworkers’ wellbeing.
And it goes to show how a little kindness can go a long way!
When Jeff was interviewed after his post went viral, he explained why he had made the simple gesture for Gloria: “I just try to lead by example and be a good person. I just hope everybody would do things like that because the world is not a very nice place,” he said.
But there is a growing movement on the rise.
Random Acts Of Kindness
The day of the interaction between Jeff and Gloria happened to fall on February 17, which is a significant date. Gloria was probably unaware of this, but February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day!
And what better way to show that you care about the people around you than to acknowledge them on a very human level and write a personal note?
The tradition has grown and gained popularity each year and is celebrated by groups, individuals, and organizations to encourage acts of kindness… it’s no wonder that it’s a favorite of many.
The principal is simple: perform a small act of kindness for a stranger. It can be a gesture, an act of service, or a small gift.
“I See You”
When Jeff reached out to a fellow human being, his gesture was simple. and when Gloria responded, he was overwhelmed with emotion. The exchange between the ironworker and the elderly lady has touched the hearts of millions–and for a good reason.
The simple act of writing a little note said to both Gloria and Jeff: I see you. You are important. We look after each other.
A Different Story
But Gloria and Jeff’s story isn’t the only one. In a small town in Texas, a similar yet different incident occurred.
The protagonist of this story was only trying to save a life when he received a comment that made him view the world differently. Although it happened in the middle of a disaster, the man would go home smiling.
A Quite Life
Chris was your average biology teacher in the local high school. He led a simple life, spending most of his time teaching his students before he went home to his dog Bucky and daughter Kayley.
A widower after his wife passed on five years back, Chris was the best dad any kid could ask for. He had no idea that a harrowing disaster was barreling their way.
Chris and his family lived in a small house in a quiet neighborhood east of the high school he taught. His neighborhood was almost empty, with an old lady, Mrs. Shareef living a few doors down.
Although Chris didn’t interact with Mrs. Shareef much, he knew her to be a good woman who mainly kept to herself. Like Chris, she had lost the love of her life a few years back and was moving through the motions. Chris didn’t know that fate was about to throw him and Mrs. Shareef into the same lot.
A Hurricane Is Coming
The week had started well enough when Chris got a call from one of his friends. The town was hunkering down for a hurricane.
Chris had lived through a handful of hurricanes in his lifetime and knew how dangerous they were. As expected, he rushed to pick up his daughter from kindergarten before heading home.
Chris took his dog and daughter to their safe area, an interior room that doubled as a storage unit. He always stocked the room with everything they would need if such a disaster struck.
With everything set, he brought his phone, some toys, and music to keep his daughter and dog occupied. He hoped the storm would be mild, not knowing it would be one of the worst.
A Raging Storm
The rains began pattering the rooftops, quickly turning into the raging storm that the news had warned about. Trees creaked and swayed outside. Their branches broke and crashed against the road, and rainwater began flowing on every inch of the street.
Chris and his family settled down for a long night. He remembered how he and his late wife used to tell stories during storms to lessen their worry. When his house phone rang, he was getting ready to do the same with Kayley and Bucky.
A Phone Call
The call was coming from Mrs. Shareef’s house. Chris hesitantly answered, not knowing what to expect. But that’s when he heard it.
There was a desperate cry as if someone was in pain. Then Mrs. Shareef’s voice came. She was sobbing as she spoke, informing Chris that she’d severely injured herself after falling her basement stairs. But that was the least of her troubles.
Mrs. Shareef’s basement quickly filled up with rainwater, and she couldn’t swim. She’d managed to wade to her landline phone with a fractured hip and shoulder. She wasn’t even sure if Chris would answer her call.
Chris tried to calm her down with soothing words, assuring her that he was calling 911. But Mrs. Shareef insisted she was running out of time. The water was almost at neck level, and her energy was waning.
At A Crossroads
Chris found himself at a crossroads. He knew the rules when it came to sheltering from a hurricane. Going outside was the worst thing a person could do.
But Mrs. Shareef was in need. She would surely meet a bad fate if Chris waited for the authorities to send help. Kissing his daughter and dog, he asked them to stay put and rushed for his rain gear before dashing outside.
Since My Wedding Day
When he stepped outside his house, Chris felt like he’d jumped out of a moving plane. The winds roared as they flowed past him, the raindrops hitting him from every direction. He sprinted through the chaos to Mrs. Shareef’s house and kicked the door in.
He found her in the basement, trying to escape the rising water level. He helped her out, carrying her back to the safety of his home. She said with a sincere smile, “I haven’t been carried like that since my wedding day!”
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.