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Kindness Bestowed
    by Philip Gulley

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    Right before I was born, my parents bought a house on Martin Drive in one of our town’s first subdivisions. No front porch, no trees, just a cookie-cutter box on a postage-stamp lawn. Still, the neighborhood had its charms. We lived next door to Mark Nickerson, the town’s oddest child. Mark would eat dirt out of our flower beds. He’d come home from school, his mouth ringed with white dust from gnawing on chalk. Morn said Mark was probably lacking something in his diet, though his diet seemed fine to me. Every morning his mother fed him cupcakes and Coke. I would stand at their front door, peering through the screen, imploring them to invite me in for breakfast.

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    Around the corner from us lived the Wrights and the Chalfants. Mr. Wright sold Knapp shoes and had a sign in front of his house inviting folks to come in and try on a pair. One day Mr. Wright caught a snapping turtle that had wandered into his yard and invited us to his house the next day for turtle soup. He was all the time cooking up any wildlife unfortunate enough to cross his path. After a while the beasts of the field learned to cut a wide swath around his home.

    Dale Chalfant worked with his dad, Lemmie, in the plumbing business. Dale would walk over to our house once a month and sit in the kitchen with a towel over his shoulders while my mother cut his hair. In exchange, Dale would unclog our pipes for free.

    The Myerses and the Blaydeses resided two empty lots away. I’ll never forget how my morn and Mrs. Blaydes stood in those lots holding each other and crying the day the Myers boy got killed on his motorcycle on North Salem Road. Inabelle Keen was a nurse and in her off-hours mended our scrapes. She would reach deep in her black bag and paint us with various healing balms. But when the Myers boy died, not even Inabelle Keen and her black bag could set things right.

Not long ago I was lamenting how kindness is a relic.
    Mr. and Mrs. Bolton lived down the street from us with their two sons. On summer evenings, Mr. Bolton would back his car out of his garage, set up his reel-to-reel projector and screen, arrange three rows of folding chairs, and show cartoons to the neighborhood kids. He would wear a path between the kitchen and garage, plying us with popcorn and soda pop. We would sit in the folding chairs and watch Mickey and Pluto and Donald.

    We moved from that neighborhood when I was eight years old. Even then I knew that Mr. Bolton and lnabelle Keen were rare birds; the chances my new neighborhood would duplicate them were slim. Sure enough, there were no more summer-evening cartoons in a garage, no more balms in black bags, no more turtle soup. Still, other acts of kindness were bestowed: the widow Bryant and her snickerdoodle cookies, Mrs. Harvey doling out Juicy Fruit, Lee and Mary Lee Comer wallpapering our kitchen the year of the blizzard.

    Not long ago I was lamenting how kindness is a relic. If an old man invites neighborhood kids to watch cartoons, we suspect evil things of him. Emergency rooms have taken the place of the Inabelle Keens. Folks who hang wallpaper are found in the yellow Pages, not next door.

    But then I remembered how when our apple trees needed trimming, Mr. Austin broke out his saw. When my sons were short a football, Mrs. Evens across the street came up with a spare. When the days were hot, the Bakers opened their pool. When my faucet was leaking, Mr. Stewart came to our door with his magic wrench. When we came back from vacation, Ray Davis had mowed our lawn. And when our little boy Spencer was operated on, Denise and Dolores from church cried in the waiting room.

    A long time ago, Elijah the prophet hermited himself away in a cave and moaned to God how rotten the world had turned. But God knew differently and spoke of thousands of virtuous folk he was proud to call his own.

    Kindness thrives. lt’s awareness that’s on the wane.

From the book Home Town Tales: Recollections of Peace, Love, and Joy by Philip Gulley. (c) 1999 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission. Also available on audio cassette!

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A full archive of past articles by Philip Gulley is maintained. Access recent articles like A Tribute to Ned Ludd, Nativity Set, and dozens more.
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Related Heartlight Resources:
Circle of Love
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Home Town Tales

About the Author...
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor who ministers in Indianapolis. He is married and has two preschool sons. In addition to pastoring and writing, Gulley enjoys spending Sunday afternoons in his hometown.

Title: "Kindness Bestowed"
Author: Philip Gulley
Publication Date: January 13, 2000



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From the book Home Town Tales: Recollections of Peace, Love, and Joy, by Philip Gulley. © 1999 by Multnomah Pub., Used by permission.
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