Most Americans would probably agree 2016 was anywhere from a bit of a downer to downright dismal. For instance:
Prince, David Bowie and Elie Wiesel were among the beloved public figures taken from us.
State politics in North Carolina hit a new peak in divisiveness. And that goes double for the national scene as animosity over the election continues to bubble.
Someone recently developed an app that replaces pictures of Donald Trump – a man who mocked the disabled – with kittens. It wasn’t much. But it was something.
This year made us wonder. But then, you wrote to tell us there was plenty of goodness left.
We got so many letters about people assisting strangers with flat tires, we began to think there’s a secret brigade of do-good motorists – just driving around in hopes they’ll happen upon someone with a flat.
Since starting this column in September 2014, we’ve never had a shortage of reader-supplied stories about their encounters with strangers who went out of their way to help. There are more stories than we have room to tell. Our apologies to those whose letters we haven’t been able to publish.
One of our favorites of the year was a letter from Eddie Bell. Bell and his wife, Wilhelmina, had a flat tire on their way to church. Nearly 10 strangers stopped to ask if they could help. Someone even invited the Bells, dressed in their Sunday clothes, to visit his church. The best part of the story: “I was so moved by the kindness and humanity shown toward us. We are black, and all the folks who stopped were white.” Bell wrote that he wanted to thank the “Sunday-morning Samaritans who stopped to help.”
Some readers write to us to thank an angel from their past. Harriet Dobbins lovingly recalled the last meal she ever shared with her late brother, Monty – a resident of Holy Angels in Belmont. Strangers secretly picked up the tab after chatting with Monty about how he’d enjoyed the recent Christmas holiday.
These people aren’t looking for recognition or a payback. Sometimes, they vanish before the person they’ve helped can even get their name. Or they do something – pick up a dinner tab – anonymously.
Some stories seem so improbable, they could almost make us believe in miracles. Marble the cat was missing for two years – two years! – before Pat and John Rodgers found the cat, took it to Animal Control, had it scanned for a microchip and reunited with its happy, surprised owners.
After the avalanche of bad news this year, your feel-good stories are a tonic.
We love reading about the people who stop to help. People who miss dates or deadlines because they couldn’t turn away from a stranger in need. And we admire the readers who take the time to share the story. Many of your letters come in the old-fashioned way – by mail – and are carefully hand-written on notebook paper or stationery.
No matter how the letters come to us, we’re grateful for all of them. We’re heartened to know that kindness still matters.
Please seep sharing your stories.
Roland Wilkerson, day news editor, and Page Leggett, correspondent, who coordinates stories and photos.